The New Standard: Karazhan Edition! (Discard Warlock)

Another week, another slew of options. Say what you will about shifting decks and the meta being “solved”, but there are still many things out there left to try. Though I have put it off in favor of stranger decks, this week I jump back on another largely-hyped deck that seemed to fall flat in […]

Introduction

Another week, another slew of options. Say what you will about shifting decks and the meta being “solved”, but there are still many things out there left to try. Though I have put it off in favor of stranger decks, this week I jump back on another largely-hyped deck that seemed to fall flat in Discard Warlock. I love decks that have their own in-house interactions, and that is exactly what this build seems to be. You have a lot of small minions and many ways to swarm the board, which you then back up by playing a bunch of cool discard cards with interesting discard interactions. This type of list is right up my alley because it’s an aggressive list that operates a little differently. I also want to mention that, while there are some very successful versions of Zoo that have discard aspects in them, I wanted to really get into the game and try to make something different. Yes, there are similarities here, but this is not the same deck. Do not be fooled.

The Deck

One thing you will notice about this list is just how absurdly low the average mana cost is. Though that makes this deck a lot like Zoo (albeit much more aggressive) there is just simply no way around that. Similar to when you have Divine Favor in your deck, you have to always make sure you have a low hand size to maximize your discard potential. Hitting the right targets is absolutely key because losing a strong play or ruining your curve is something you cannot afford in this current “value now” meta. Running a lot of low cost minions also comes with the added bonus of increasing your odds of getting rid of random junk.

This deck is made as an aggro deck that pushes pressure with fast damage that aims to end the game as fast as possible. Discardlock tends to shift towards the more aggro style because most of the discard cards are inherently aggressive. However, there is another reason you need fast damage. Most slower or midrange lists in the game today have a bunch of trump cards (Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End, Call of the Wild, Al’akir the Windlord) that you just cannot beat. As a result, if you don’t end games early you often aren’t going to be able to win.

That being said, it is hard to figure out just how aggressive this lists wants to be. I am currently going all in with no backup plan. While there could be a different set of cards that help some of the longer games, I am not sure that is a winning line to take. You really need to get out early here and hit your opponent hard. If anything, this could be made to be even more aggressive than it already is.

The other thing I am currently struggling with is the very simple idea that, in order for this to work, you need to discard cards. That means you have to run cards that discard cards, and I am not sure how many you want versus how many discard oriented cards you need. Darkshire Librarian seems like an easy lock, as are Soulfire and Doomguard. However, having access to Succubus could really help with the consistency, as could another Fist of Jaraxxus. This one if still in the air and probably worth further testing.

Key Cards

This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list and how they’ve performed so far.

Soulfire

We kick off our discussion with Soulfire, one of the key cards that holds the whole deck together. Not only is this card important in allowing you to both be aggressive and discard cards, but it also does a very good job at setting up large tempo plays. Four damage for one mana is just insane, and it is a great way to clear out the board and make way for your early minions to get in hits. This deck loves to go face, but there will be times where you have to remove a threat. It is always better to do that with a spell because it adds up to more damage over time. Having Soulfire is also extremely strong when paired in the same list alongside Power Overwhelming. Having access to both cards is one of the reasons you can play the all-in aggro game so well.

The other reason I bring this card up is to point out just how important it is to not get caught up in value. This is a deck that has a theme, and when you have a deck that is trying to do one thing it is easy to make plays that only follow that plan. For instance, only using or holding Soulfire for when you can get value from the discard. Never do this. While it is nice to have some extra value here and there you do not want to work too hard to get that value. The whole point of a deck like this is being able to play the regular aggro game while sometimes having those crazy swings. Yes, you are going to win some games because of Soulfire‘s discard, but getting a bad one should never hurt you too badly either.

Tiny Knight of Evil

A card that has been taken out of most discard lists, Tiny Knight of Evil is a very strong two drop that slots perfectly into what you are trying to do. As noted, I wanted to take this deck past the usual mix of Zoo-cards-plus-discard. There are a ton of two drops that Warlock has used to great effect, but for the hyper-aggro style I think this is the way to go. The reason I like this card so much is because it reminds me a lot of Cult Sorcerer‘s role in Tempo Mage. That is to say, though it is rarely going to live early on, if it does it generates a ton of damage value. Of course there is no spell interaction here, but the power to grow should not be underestimated.

Though many may see the two-drop demon as underwhelming, three attack is incredibly strong in this game of Mana Wyrms and Tunnel Troggs. That can push through a lot of damage and help you start going face early on. It also makes Tiny Knight of Evil a huge threat. Three damage that has a ton of upside is something most decks are going to remove right away, which means your opponent is going to target this as soon as they can. As such, you can use this as an early tempo play by forcing your opponent to commit their turn to removal rather than putting something on the board. You can then use this to springboard to a solid turn three. That play isn’t always going to matter, but you want to work hard to get down as many early beaters as you can to stretch your opponent’s removal thin.

Darkshire Librarian

You are going to be discarding cards, which also means you are going to need to draw. Your hero power does this very well, but I have found that I often do not want to Lifetap early on with this deck as you do with Zoo lists. The reason for this is twofold. One, you simply have so many low costs card that you can always find ways to stretch out your early mana to gain extra board presence. This often causes your hand to empty quickly, and being able to refill it naturally without using two mana and two health is very nice. Darkshire Librarian, even when it discards that clutch Doomguard you needed, is almost always going to be value because it tears through your deck at the very least. Aggro decks like this one often lose by running out of cards, and you want to resist that as much as you can.

Using Darkshire Librarian is never going to be an easy thing to do. I rarely put this down on turn two when I have other options in my hand. This is because, not only do your other two drops pack more of a punch, but you do want some control over the librarian’s ability if you can afford it. While cards like Tiny Knight of Evil are just going to get worse as the game goes on, the librarian’s discard and draw can almost always be used to generate some type of value. It is also important to know your matchups and understand what cards you absolutely need to win. This is because you should often hold off with the discard if there is something you cannot afford to lose in hand. The general here is to aim to make the Darkshire Librarian a 50/50 to discard something good or inconsequential.

Demonfire

Probably the strangest card in the entire deck, Demonfire is an incredibly strong buff if you can manage to get value from it. Many have overlooked this early on in testing, but I think this may catch on as more and more decks turn to midrange builds. There are typically two big problems with cards like Demonfire. The first is that they represent inherent card advantage. This is because if your minion gets removed you just lost both the initial card and the one you played on top of it. However, Warlock can offset that because of their hero power, which eventually overcomes the tempo loss. This allows you more freedom to play cards with higher risk and higher reward.

What has typically held this card back in the past is, as you may have guessed, a lack of demons. Zoo has had its fair share of demons in the past, but most of them came much later in the game. With the new additions to this list (Wrath Guard, Tiny Knight of Evil, Imp of Malchezaar) you now have a whole slew of demons, six of which cost one mana. Getting a turn two 3/5 or 5/4 can allow you to both dominate a board against faster decks and pour on pressure against slower ones. A +2/+2 buff is no joke, especially in a deck that wants to much early presence as this one. This buff has proved to be so good I even considered running Demonfuse. Swear to God.

Note: Do not forget that this card can hit other minions besides demons as well. It is easy to see this as a buff only, but it is also removal at times (though that is never the first option).

Silverware Golem

The card that truly makes this whole deck possible, Silverware Golem is a very strong minion that leads to some of the absolutely insane and unfair starts that makes this deck work. A free 3/3 coming with cards that normally have card backs in unreal and leads to the sudden “oops I win” moments that make this deck worth playing. As with Soulfire, you never want to get stuck on this card’s potential. That may go even more for the golem because people will actively resist running this out. In general, you never want to play the 3/3 over other minions because there is always a chance this will be free later in the game. In fact, the odds of cheating this into play also go up as the turns go by because your hand will naturally get smaller and smaller. That being said, a 3/3 for three is still a solid body and a fine on-curve play when you want to get something down. Remember that aggression is important and you will lose if you do not have the constant push. Playing a low value minion is still going to better than Lifetapping and passing.

Matchups

Some of the most common matchups I see while playing ladder.

Spirit Claws Shaman

Aggro Shaman is gone, and in its place is one of the most popular decks I have seen in some time. Spirit Claws Midrange Shaman is absolutely everywhere and has more than proved to be the deck to beat in the current meta. That seems like it does not bode well for this list, but I think the game is much closer than it first seems. The reason for this is, while Shaman has a ton of tight plays and cheap powerful minions (most notably Thing from Below) you can really race them down. This game is going to be a mix of trying to make sure your opponent can never mount a strong front and getting in as much damage as you can. This match is centered around health, and whoever has less is going to have to play defensively. You cannot take that line against Shaman because they will be able to grind you down.

While damage is important, this is a game where you absolutely need to play tempo game. No matter what type of Shaman you are facing, you are going to see buffs. Always try and clear their board to limit the value of those buffs. In addition, every single deck runs a whole slew of spell power cards, which means you need to kill their totems to make sure spell power totem is kept in check. You typically need to always weigh how much damage is worth versus how much you need to kill a certain minion. I would say that most of the time clearing is the right path and spell power totem is a must kill. However, if you are making a large push and you know your opponent does not have AOE then you should flood and go face.

Yogg Druid

If I’m not playing against Shaman, I’m facing down Druid. This is a very hard match. So much so that I would say this is pretty close to the nightmare. While Druid has never been good at handling swarms of minions, the new versions are pretty much all removal and healing. Then, they finish that plan off with Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End. As a result, you need to try to end this one before your opponent gets to ten mana. It has gotten to the point where Yogg is just a good card with very little drawbacks. It is often going to clear your board and will just ruin your gameplan most of the time. Yes, there will be times where the old god hurts your opponent, but those are few and far between. You never want to roll the dice if you don’t have to. They are not weighted in your favor.

The other part of this matchup is understanding what version of Druid you are facing. There are two popular Yogg-based lists right now: Maly and Token. Knowing which one you are facing is important because it will help you understand their win condition, which helps you know how to use your cards. Anytime you see a classic token card (Violet Teacher, Power of the Wild) you are playing against token, and when you see cards like Moonfire or Gadgetzan Auctioneer. The important distinction between each of these decks is that token cares much more about the board and has more ways to challenge it than Maly. Also know to be more careful with your health when facing Maly since they have a lot of burst damage out of nowhere. Either way, you win both of these games through constant pressure.

Midrange Hunter

Though the hype on it has died in the crushing wake of Midrange Shaman, Hunter is still the real deal. This deck is very fast, has a ton of options, and has the best curve in the game. Even so, this is one of the games you are the most favored in. Hunter is a deck that never likes to play from behind and if you can push hard early you should be able to swarm them down before they ever find their footing. As with Druid, this is a game you need to end early. While you can actually outrace Savannah Highmane simply by cranking up the early pressure, Call of the Wild is going to put Hunter in control of the game no matter what the board state. If you do make it to turn seven you should always read the board and know if you need to push or you want to clear minions to limit Leokk‘s value.

A big thing to watch out for in this matchup is staying in control of damage. You are an aggressive deck, but one bad or slow turn instantly puts Hunter in control of the game. Once that happens they will quickly run you over thanks to their hero power working against your Lifetap. You want your opponent to be on the defensive from turn one, even if that means making very aggressive plays like Abusive Sergeant/hit their face. However, while you want Hunter to answer you, you need to stay on top of their beasts. Houndmaster is by far their best tool here and you need to restrict it as much as you can. It doesn’t feel good running a big threat into a 3/2, but it is often better than giving your opponent free tempo plays.

Dragon Warrior

It’s dying, but Dragon Warrior is still around. The aggressive midrange list is very strong, but they do not match up well here. Not only is their only AOE Ravaging Ghoul, but they also only have two hard removal spells in Execute. That means you just want to go fast and hard at your opponent’s face. With so many one drops and such a low curve you should be able to draw first blood. Warrior is not used to playing against decks that can get a jump on them. As a result, each turn beyond the first you just need to build your board and dare them to have answers. This is not a game to be complacent. They have a lot of strong minions, but very few spells to play around. Get your early threats down as soon as you can and never look back.

The most important thing to be aware of in this match is how well Dragon Warrior can leverage pressure. Like Hunter they have many ways to take over the game, all of which happens between turns five and eight. This is because they can suddenly run some charge damage at your face, which then gives them a six mana 9/9 or pulls you within Gromm range. As a result, you typically want to control the first three or four turns and only crank up the pressure after. You have many ways to just throw damage at your opponent, and this is when you want to make the most of it. Just make sure to be aware of Twilight Guardian. The 3/6 can blow you out during a race. Some decks tend to run The Curator and Fierce Monkey, so keep those in mind as well.

Tempo Mage

Tempo Mage is becoming more and more optimized with each passing day. While that’s not necessarily bad news for you, it isn’t great news either. This is a very swingy game that comes down to draws and how well Mage can stall your plan of attack. The newer versions of tempo are much slower than the old. Though they still pack the usual amount of burn, they have dropped low-cost spells like Mirror Image in favor of raising their curve with things like Cabalist’s Tome. As a result, you are going to have free reign during the first two or three turns of the game. That means you can just play out what you want and then trade into any small minions Mage might play. This will push a lot of damage and set up your middle turns. However, once those turns end Mage gets their say. They are often going to conserve their spells and then unleash them in a flurry of death. A big part of winning this game is nullifying this by mounting early threats that need to be killed right away or putting down things that just are inefficient to clear. Making Mage work to kill your minions is one of the best ways to win this game because it stretches their combos thin and runs them low on cards.

Note: Watch out for Flamestrike. As tempo has gotten slower, they almost always have one copy of the mass removal hiding somewhere.

Mulligan Guide

There are two things you want to look for when mulliganing with this deck: low cost cards and discard interaction. As an aggro deck you just want all of your one and two drops as soon as you can get them. Almost everything in this deck is a must keep. Abusive Sergeant, Argent Squire, Flame Imp, Malchezaar’s Imp, Possessed Villager, Voidwalker, Dark Peddler, Darkshire Librarian and Tiny Knight of Evil are your must keeps. Beyond that, you want Imp Gang Boss with the coin or a good curve and you always want Silverware Golem with a solid curve.

Power Overwhelming is a good card but it’s too situational to keep. Soulfire follows the same rule, though you can keep it with a strong opening against decks that have early targets you want to remove (Shaman, Hunter). Demonfire is another good card you should only keep if you have something to put it on. It is too weak on its own. Doomguard and Fist of Jaraxxus are too expensive to ever keep early.

Conclusion

Though it is different from my usual ladder fare these days, this is a list I really enjoy. I think the discard mechanic is a really cool ability that I hope gets explored ever further in the coming expansions. It has been a long time since I have tried any style of aggressive Warlock and it was refreshing to dive back into an old archetype I once had so much success with. It’s never good to dwell on the past, but it is fun to do it every once in a while. Thanks for reading and, until next time, may you always discard that which you do not need.