A New GvG Warlock: Darkwonyx’s Combo Warlock

Today we are going to be analyzing a Warlock combo deck that Darkwonyx brought to ESL Week 5 and used to achieve a 3-2 victory over Brian Kibler.

Introduction

Hello everyone my name is Zenaton and this is my first article for Hearthstone Players. Just so you know a little bit about me, I have personally reached the Legend rank numerous times using a plethora decks from control to aggro. I have also been playing Hearthstone since the beta and have even entered a few small tournaments all in an attempt to become a better player. However enough about me let’s learn about a new deck today. I hope you all enjoy it and learn something new today.

Today we are going to be analyzing a Warlock combo deck that Darkwonyx brought to ESL Week 5 and used to achieve a 3-2 victory over Brian Kibler, absolutely destroying Kibler’s Druid deck and defeating his Priest in a close match to win the series. This deck plays very differently from the two core Warlock decks of Zoo and Handlock in that it is hard to not die while digging through your deck for the winning combo. I personally am very impressed by Darkwonyx with this deck and am excited to analyze his deck’s strategy. I’m also going to go card by card and help explain why it works so well

Overview

The main combo of the deck consists of the three cards Arcane Golem, Power Overwhelming, and Faceless Manipulator. When using one of each card in the combo for nine mana these three cards together can deal a whopping 16 damage, very impressive. However this deck runs two Power Overwhelmings so if you are able to play all four cards for ten mana then you will be dealing a scary 24 damage in one turn to your opponent. Now this combo is nothing new as Handlock players used to run almost the exact same combo except with Leeroy Jenkins instead of Arcane Golem. That however, was back when Leeroy Jenkins only costed four mana. Now that he has been nerfed, a good majority of Handlock players have been putting in more late game control cards such as the mighty Lord Jaraxxus.

As a general rule you almost never want to use your combo cards by themselves as the Arcane Golem, Power Overwhelming, and Faceless Manipulator is your main win condition and how you will probably win 90% of games using this deck.

Like all combo decks the biggest challenge for the player is surviving while simultaneously drawing a large number of cards to assemble their combo. When we look at Miracle Rogue, which is probably the most well-known combo deck, they achieve this goal through the use of a Rogues cheap, efficient removal along with the Gadgetzan Auctioneer for card draw. This warlock deck does not have enough cheap spells to run Gadgetzan Auctioneer effectively, but that is not needed as the Warlock hero power will draw all the cards you want for the low low price of your health.

Many less experienced players have difficulty understanding how to use the Warlock hero power efficiently in that they either tap too much and lose to one of an opponent’s many potential win conditions or stop tapping too early and don’t have the cards they need to win. If you are going to play any kind of Warlock deck successfully learning how to tap at the right times is a key to victory for the class.

Since the deck we are analyzing is a combo deck that gains cards in exchange for health, there is quite a bit of healing stuffed into the deck. Looking at the cards that immediately grant health we have two copies of Siphon Soul, two of Earthen Ring Farseer, and two of Antique Healbot granting us a total of 28 health. That’s almost a whole new life! Not to mention we also have a new GvG card in the form of Mistress of Pain which bring the classic Magic the Gathering mechanic of Lifelink to Hearthstone in that for every point of damage she does, the player gains that much health. Now this amazing mechanic is offset by her stats as she only has 1 attack. However imagine her when she is buffed up by Demonheart. That card alone makes her a 6/9 that gives you 6 health when she does damage to any character(without Immune or Divine Shield). That just gave us back six health which translates to three more taps and three more cards which will bring us that much closer to our combo and ultimately victory over our opponent. We also can’t forget Alexstrasza when talking about life gain. As if the situation is dire enough we can use her to bring us back to 15 life, however you generally want to use her to put your opponent in range for a combo finisher.

Individual Card Analysis

Mortal Coil:

This card seems a little weak for the cost, doing only one damage for one mana which is a terrible damage to mana ratio when compared to other cards like Soulfire. The benefit is, Mortal Coil creates great value as it can cycle itself while killing common aggro cards like Leper Gnome. When combined with Bloodmage Thalnos it can even get rid of pesky 2 health minions like Knife Juggler. Also, tournaments have been seeing a rise in Paladins and as Warlocks have no way to do one damage easily, this card helps to control the ever annoying Silver Hand Recruit before the Quartermaster buff comes into play.

Power Overwhelming:

The first card of your finishing combo. You almost never want to use a Power Overwhelming as it brings a lot of damage to your winning play. Imagine being stuck with only Arcane Golem and Faceless Manipulator because you used your Power Overwhelming to help clear a minion. That only totals 8 burst damage for 8 mana which is terrible when compared to the 16 burst damage you could have done for only one more mana with a Power Overwhelming. This deck does run two Power Overwhelmings though so if it is absolutely necessary, you can use one to help clear a minion. However this does hamper your combo as the maximum damage the combo can do now is only 16 damage as opposed to the 24 burst damage if you had both Power Overwhelmings.

Voidwalker:

You might be thinking “why is this card in here he seems like such a small impact card that he won’t do anything for this deck”. While there is some truth to that, the card does more for the deck then you would think. Voidwalker alone is weak, however he is a demon and when combined with Demonheart we get an impressive 6/8 with taunt. This creates a big body that can apply a lot of pressure to our opponents before we have our combo in our hand and it will force them to deal with it or risk just flat out losing. Also, a common situation you run into when playing combo decks is when you just need to live one more turn and the 1/3 taunt might pull you through. Keep in mind that you should try not to regularly rely on plays like that to keep you alive.

Darkbomb:

Before the Soulfire nerf almost every Warlock ran Soulfire in their deck, granted some Handlocks ran only one copy of the card, but 4 damage to any target for no mana and a random discard was too good to give up. Then Soulfire was nerfed to cost one mana and the Darkbomb came along. Sure the Darkbomb costs more then Soulfire and does only 3 damage in comparison to Soulfire’s 4 but that discard can hurt this deck a lot. Overall Darkbomb is just a better choice for a Warlock deck that is reliant developing a hand and holding on to certain key cards such as this one.

Bloodmage Thalnos:

This guy is amazing! He is a cantrip mixed with spell power, what’s not to love? Also Bloodmage Thalnos and imp-losion give us a chance to deal 5 damage and gain 5 imps! Not much more needs to be said about this classic legendary.

Mistress of Pain:

Tap, tap, tap, is how we will be fishing for our combo with this deck. While many players consider Warlocks to have the best hero ability currently in the game, its downside of costing health can lead to losses by one tap too many. This deck is very dependent on the hero ability and Mistress of Pain can help the player mitigate the health loss from your hero ability and any damage you take from your enemy to boot. We also shouldn’t forget she is a demon and has great synergy with Demonheart. With a Demonheart buff she becomes a 6/9 that gives you 6 health when she does damage to any character(without Immune or Divine Shield) which equates to a potential three extra taps.

Arcane Golem:

The second card of your finishing combo. Out of the three cards in your finishing combo this is probably the most important card. Without him there is nothing for your Faceless Manipulator to copy for extra damage. You can however use your Power Overwhelmings on other cards in an attempt to kill your opponents. His downside of giving one mana crystal is pretty much null as when you play this card, it usually means you are gong in for the kill.

Earthen Ring Farseer:

Ah Earthen Ring Farseer. Such an old card but he is still here and I believe he is going to stick around for a little longer because he is just that good. Looking at the card as a body alone he is a little lackluster at three mana for a 3/3, but being able to heal anything on the board for three health is an amazing battlecry. Many pros recently have been taking him out of some of their decks though in exchange for the Antique Healbots and others are using both like Darkwonyx does in this deck.

Hellfire:

This card is in the deck solely to stop aggro decks though if really needed it’s another three damage to your opponent. With the advent of Mechwarper, mech decks of all classes that swarm the board with lots of mech have become more prevalent in both tournaments and on the ladder. The three damage of Hellfire is great as it kills the Mechwarper, Cogmaster, and other common GvG cards.

Imp-losion:

This card right here is so much fun to play and can be so infuriating to play against at the same time. You can use it to help get rid of tough cards like the famous Chillwind Yeti and the new Mechanical Yeti. Not to mention that no matter what you hit you will get at least two copies of an imp which seem small at only 1/1 but can become a big 6/6 with a nice Demonheart buff.

Fel Cannon:

Oh boy this card. Coming in as a 3/5 Fel Cannon is not bad for stats tying with the likes of Sen’jin Shieldmasta and Violet Teacher. Where this guy shines however is that he does two damage to a random non-mech unit at the end of your turn. Be careful as this effect can be a double-edged sword as it can kill your own minions. You should try to negate the randomness of this card by playing it when your opponent has only a single card on the board. Use it in combination with Darkbomb and you can clear pesky midgame drops like Chillwind Yeti and Sludge Belcher. Also as Darkwonyx demonstrated against Brian Kibler, this card is amazing against the annoying Shade of Naxxramas as the Fel Cannon will hit the Shade of Naxxramas if it’s the only card on your enemy’s board.

Demonheart:

I love this card so much. I am a huge fan of the tribes such as Pirate, Murloc, and Mech and would love to see Demon decks have more appearances in competitive play. In this deck we have three targets for the Demonheart buff: Mistress of Pain, Imps from Imp-losion, or Voidwalker. Even without demons on your board you can use this as a five damage nuke (which is quite bad for five mana) but this does mean that this card will almost never be a dead card in your hand. At the very least it can be a mana inefficient way to kill a minion with five health.

Antique Healbot:

What an amazing card to fight against aggro decks. While his stats are pretty terrible for his price he should not be looked at as a five mana 3/3 Instead see him as a five mana Healing Touch that leaves behind a 3/3 body. Try to use him when you think your opponent might have lethal, for example getting out of Force of Nature plus Savage Roar range. Having two of these guys in your deck allows you more time to get to the late-game and find those cards needed for your combo.

Faceless Manipulator:

The third and final card in your finishing combo. 99% of the time this guy is going to be used to copy a buffed up Arcane Golem and kill your opponent. The other 1% of the time will be for some funny shenanigans, for example your opponent is below eight health and only has a ragnaros the firelord on his board and the only way for you to win this turn is to take the coin flip chance of copying Ragnaros and having the copy hit your opponent’s face.

Sludge Belcher:

This guy has been around the Hearthstone block for a while and most people know just how good he is by now. He is sticky card with taunt, good stats at 3/5 to kill small minions of aggro oriented decks, and when he dies he leaves behind a 1/2 with taunt that is really annoying to all kinds of decks. His one weakness is silence as it not only gets rid of his taunt but also kills the 1/2 that you would have gotten.

Siphon Soul:

I have a love-hate relationship with this card. It is the only form of single target direct removal that Warlocks have. While many decks crave direct removal, this card in comparison to others such as Hex and Polymorph is just not that good. It is extremely costly coming in at six mana that and only destroying a minion meaning deathrattles will still occur. The three health is negligible most of the time and as we need direct removal, Siphon Soul is going to remain a key card for a lot of Warlock decks.

Baron Geddon:

Darkwonyx loves his Baron Geddon, so much so that he tries to put it in as many decks as he can. In general Baron Geddon fills the role of stabilizer card in that he will clear a lot of small minions and put a big body on the board for you. Compared to Hellfire, Baron Geddon does do one less damage to everything but the key about him is the 7/5 body he has. This big body he has forces your opponent to deal with him because if he is allowed to hit your opponent a few times then they will be in a lethal health range for you to finish them off.

Twisting Nether:

Twisting Nether an expensive card with a beautiful animation. “Destroy all minions” is relatively simple to understand, but knowing when to use this card is where it becomes more complex. Make no mistake this is an extremely situational card because of its high mana cost and the fact that it destroys all minions on the board, including your own. Play it too early and your opponent can just rebuild their board presence. Wait too long and you might just die before you can even play the card. You will ideally want to play this card when you have nothing or at least very little on your side of the board. This card serves extremely well for buying you a few extra turns to either find your combo cards or bring your opponent down to a lethal health range.

Alexstrasza:

The dragon of life and death, what a great card she is. Coming in as an 8/8 at nine mana Alexstrasza is already a big body to deal with for any type of deck. Her real power lies in her ability to set either hero’s health to 15. By doing this to your enemy you almost always set your opponent up for lethal if you even have part of your combo. If you are really desperate you can even use her to bring you back up to 15 but that is a disadvantageous play unless your opponent is already in a lethal health range, you are close to winning the next turn, and you just need one more turn to win.

Playstyle

When facing aggro decks survival is the name of the game like always. Getting a great Hellfire is the first step to winning against an aggro deck. If your opponent still has around four cards in hand it might be best to hold the Hellfire for one more turn to try to bait out more minions from your enemy. However holding on too long could just lose you the game so use your judgement for when the best time to use your Hellfire is. After the Hellfire, Baron Geddon can come down to wipe out your opponent’s attempt to reestablish board presence while creating a big minion that can help you stabilize and keep pushing for victory.

Against control decks doing nothing the first few turns is usually okay as the scariest thing control decks play in the early game is something ultimately negligible like a Zombie Chow or Haunted Creeper. Besides, gaining a few cards from the first few taps you will probably trick your opponent into making them believe you are a Handlock so they will probably be preparing for a turn 4 Mountain Giant or Twilight Drake instead of a Fel Cannon or Imp-losion. If you draw some of your cheap cards such as Mistress of Pain or Voidwalker it is not the wrong play to put them on the board and establish some early pressure especially if you are against a control Warrior since you want to keep their armor low to lessen the value of their shield slam.

Conclusion

The ESL Legendary Series has been a great series so far and in week 5 Darkwonyx was able to come out on top beating Brian Kibler 3-2, Zalae 3-2, and Sjow in the finals with a 3-1 victory. This deck was key to many of Darkwonyx’s victories and its uniqueness and unpredictability threw off many of his opponents. Although the deck is hard to play and created for a tournament setting, with some modifications for the current meta of the ladder is this can be a successful deck for the ladder. Thank you all for reading my analysis of this deck, I hope you all enjoyed it and learned something new in Hearthstone today!

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