Since LOE, Warlock has come back in a big way. There are two very powerful versions of the class right now, and they each have their own weight and merit when it comes to moving up ranks. One of those is the slow, grindy Renodeck that is a pure control deck through and through. The other is Zoo, a much faster board-control aggro deck that thrives on swarms of small minions. In this guide we will take a look at the matchup between each of these decks, analyzing just how Zoo can use its early pressure and sticky creatures to come out on top.
Zoo is one of the most diverse decks in Hearthstone. It has a ton of different versions, and you can always tweak the core deck to fit your playstyle. As long as you are playing the core cards that make Zoo, Zoo you will be fine. Just know you need to have sticky minions and some late game power. You can tweak the deck to have more early aggression or more end game punch. Whatever you choose, make sure it is a deck that you want to play. Being familiar with your deck is one of the most important parts of Hearthstone. To help you choose the style of Zoo that best suits you, some decklists have been linked below.
When mulliganing with Zoo you usually want to start out as fast as possible. Your curve is very important, and you are going to need to hit it if you want to climb up the ranks. However, you can take a little more time when going up against Renolock. This game, unless you get a blinding fast opening, is going to stretch long. Renolock loves to play the long game and can grind any deck down. As such, you can get some of your stronger turn three and four threats instead of always hard looking for one and two drops. This is a matchup where your deathrattle is very important. Keep minions with that keyword as well.
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 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
There are two modes to playing against Renolock and understanding each of them is key to knowing how you are going to play this match. You are either going to fight for aggression and quick burst to end the game quickly, or you are going to slowly build up a resilient board. The way you determine this is by how the game starts.
If you open fast and can flood the board, then you want to push, push, push. While Zoo is centered on board control, they are an aggro deck at heart. You have many ways to do damage, and if you begin fast you want to do everything you can to kill Renolock before they can stabilize. If you take this route make sure you can back it up with some deathrattle minions on board. Renolock runs a lot of AOE, and putting them to twelve life and then getting your board wiped can lead to a quick loss.
On the other hand, if the game goes slow (as most games will) you want to do your best to just keep building the board and trying to create as resilient of a board state as you can. This will constantly keep Renolock under pressure by threatening damage and forcing them to constantly be thinking about your plays. In this strategy you just want to keep to your curve and slowly build into bigger and bigger threats before you burst them down with a huge chunk of damage.
Early Game Strategy
Renolock has very few early turn plays. In fact, beyond the usual AOE gambit, they pretty much only have Dark Peddler and Imp Gang Boss early on. While the boss can be annoying at times, you should be able to take over these turns with relative ease. Just get your minions down (prioritizing deathrattle minions) and use that to build an early presence to carry you through the game. However, if they do get their early minions down, clear them on sight.
One card you do want to watch out for is Mortal Coil. All removal is rough, but removal that also enables them to draw a card can put you in a really rough spot. That does not mean you want to hold back minions to avoid the coil, you just want to understand that it exists. As such, if you have are thinking about playing or putting a minion to one health, you should probably think twice before you make that move.
Imp-losion and Imp Gang Boss are your two best tools in the early game. Each of these cards are proverbial “armies in a can” that can give you a ton of presence without having to commit too much to the board. Try to use them whenever possible. The only exception to this is you want to hold back on Imp-losion if you have a large board to prevent yourself from over-extending.
This is where the game starts to get tricky. Renolock, for their lack or early game (and lack of real late game) have some really heavy hitters that can just dominate a board. While sometimes you can ignore the board or try to push for damage, if they manage to play Reno Jackson behind their threats the game is going to get very tough. For that reason always try to clear before you go face unless you are trying to set up a quick lethal.
One of Renolock’s biggest midgame threats is Twilight Drake. A 4/8 or 4/9 is very hard to deal with, especially when it comes down on turn four. There are not too many ways to handle the dragon and you mostly want to let it trade into you. However, if you do have Ironbeak Owl the drake makes a great target. Yes, there are taunts you may want to deal with later on, but you won’t be able to answer them if the drake takes out most of your board.
Power Overwhelming is a very strong card for this part of the game. The buff spell allows you to turn any 1/1 into a threat, and gives you a way to deal five or more damage. That means you can use it take out any of Renolock’s powerful midrange minions like Sludge Belcher or Emperor Thaurissan. Not only does that allow you to retain board control, but it also helps keep up that all important pressure.
As always, the most important card to worry about here is Reno Jackson. While there are some games where they won’t have the explorer, you never want to take that chance. This is the number one reason you want to do everything you can to keep a strong board. Just like when facing Jaraxxus, you want to get enough minions down so you can keep up the damage once they go back to thirty health. If you have no board when they go exploring, the game is going to be all but over.
Late Game Strategy
At this point in the game you absolutely need to do everything you can to hold the board while also having enough threats in hand to rebound after AOE. In terms of the board you, like always, want to constantly play deathrattle minions or do everything you can to keep one or two in their first form. That, backed up with clearing and solid trades, can put you in a good position to win since it will play around both Reno Jackson and Lord Jaraxxus.
However, no matter what board you have Renolock is going to clear in some way. You have to be ready for that time when it comes. To do this you need to make the most of Lifetap. Getting extra cards is really strong, and if you have a hand full of minions you can easily just empty your hand the turn after they AOE. One of the best cards to hold until after a massive clear is Dr. Boom, who instantly puts down three threats on his own.
While normally a midgame card, Loatheb (if you run it) is amazing for the later part of this game. The reason is because it stops almost all of Renolock’s spells, and can give you surprise lethal. If you have a strong board, the fungus-lover can suddenly lock out any removal spell and make healing their only out.
Always be careful when attacking your opponent or trying to set up lethal. There are a ton of different Renolock decks out there and, due to the nature of the deck, they can run just about anything, which includes Molten Giant. While that may not sound like the end of the world, if they get a free 8/8 and then heal back up or taunt you can get locked out. Always try to burst them down from fourteen or twelve rather than putting them down into single digits