The New Standard: Midrange Demonlock

Note: Unfortunately, due to technical issues, there is no video for this post this week. Much apologies! Last week we tackled control. Before that, we took a hard look at aggro. Now on The New Standard I wanted to break into midrange (kinda). This week we are going to dive into a deck idea that […]

Note: Unfortunately, due to technical issues, there is no video for this post this week. Much apologies!

Last week we tackled control. Before that, we took a hard look at aggro. Now on The New Standard I wanted to break into midrange (kinda). This week we are going to dive into a deck idea that I have been mulling about for quite some time. Back when Karazhan was first announced I was really intrigued by Malchezaar’s Imp. Not because of the effect (though it is quite strong) but because it was another 1/3 demon for one mana. Having four 1/3 one drops really added some extra power to Demonfire and gave you a curve that could really take over early boards. That led me to experiment with many different demon-based builds. However, no matter what I did, the list just didn’t quite have the strength that I wanted it to have. Not only that, but most of the time I just found myself saying, “this is just Zoo.” This week’s list is my attempt to finally get over that hump and play a slightly different deck that has much more all-around punch than Gul’dan is used to.

The Deck

This entire deck was born out of Demonfire (and consequently Bloodfury Potion). I have always liked buffs in relation to a more midrange Demon deck, and that is exactly what this build sets out to be. You want to use Warlock’s powerful early game threats to pace your opponent during the first turns of the game and then blast them down with some large bodies during turns five through eight. There are an incredible amount of ways to up your demons here and they all make it so you never lose control of the game once you get it. Today’s meta is dominated by decks that depend on leveraging the board, and if you can do it better than they can you should be able to win a lot of games.

What really sets this deck apart from other versions is that it has the ability to go late and go big. Though I have long been an advocate of Face Hunter, this is not the meta for hyper-aggressive decks. Yes, Pirate Warrior is good, but there are so many counters to it that most fine-tuned lists do a very good job at just pacing it down. Most of the midrange decks have natural taunts, and the ones that don’t are still primed with small AOE to take down aggro. Here we want to prey on those plans by creating a deck that starts fast but they gets bigger and bigger each turn.

Key Cards

This section will explain certain key cards to the list as a whole.

The Buffs

This deck would simply not be able to work without both Demonfire and Bloodfury Potion. As mentioned above, this is a deck that uses buffs at its life blood to both push damage and control the board. Each of your spells does that with lethal efficiency. Turning a one drop into a 3/5 or a two drop into a 5/5 just put you so far ahead against other board-based decks that they will almost never be able to catch up. In addition, it also does a great job of invalidating hard removal and shutting down AOE. Just try to set these up on low-value targets if you can. You never want to go all-in on one minion and then lose to a single removal spell. Having a 2/4 and a 3/3 is often much better than having a 4/6 and a 1/1. It is also important to note that Demonfire can do two damage to an opposing minion if needed. That doesn’t come up often, but it can help.

While these two cards are very good at pushing damage, you typically want to use them to get value trades that then put your opponent into tricky situations. Druid has always been bad against flood decks because it has an inherent lack of AOE. As a result, the class needs to use multiple cards to get rid an opposing board, which then ties up their mana. To have success with this deck you want to try to turn all of your opponent’s into Druids. Forcing any class to spend their resources (and thus their turn) dealing with your board keeps you in control and enable you to just get bigger the next turn. That has always been the strength of midrange lists, and your buffs allow you to do that extremely well.

Street Trickster

Though I tested many demons and found most of them to be extremely lackluster, I do think that there is a place here for Street Trickster. The zero attack is abysmal, but it is an amazing body for buffs. Turning your three drop (which is often going to be ignored by your opponent) into an impossible to kill 2/9 or 3/10 is just going to be incredible. That goes double if you can get a Defender of Argus on it. This is one of those innocuous card choices that seems odd but really does a lot in practice. Even having a 1/8 demon makes this a threat that can help you just keep something on the board as the game goes on. On top of that, this card also has spell damage. That may not seem like much, but it matters. Getting an extra point of damage can be the difference between winning and losing (see the video) and making your Demonwrath deal three really helps against Shaman and Jade Druid. This card isn’t going to shake up the meta, but it is one of the best current demon choices around.

Cyrstalweaver 

As Trump would say, “the valuuueeeeee.” Another card I have been intrigued by for a long time, Crystalweaver is an extremely powerful four drop that does everything you want it to. Not only is it a 5/4 (which matters a lot in the current attack-centric meta) but it comes with free, on-curve buffs that build your board for free. This is one of the cards that really pushes a midrange build like this forward, and you should note that almost nobody is going to see it coming. It is very easy to outplay yourself by assuming your opponent has the same information as you, but they will never be aware of the four drop. That means you can really mess up both their AOE and trading plans. In fact, when this is in your hand you want to try hard to bait your opponent into setting up symmetric boards so you can then blow them out.

While there are many cards in this list (Defender of Argus, Demonfire) that you need to work to set up, you should not be afraid to play Cyrstalweaver into just one or two bodies. I would say the 5/4 plays a very similar role to how Tomb Pillager operates in Rogue. Though you do not get the guaranteed value of the coin, you do get a solid four drop that is instantly going to force out an answer because nobody can take five damage against you. There is a lot of damage in this deck, and that means you are able to leverage your threats extremely well. If you cannot get a dream board with three or four buffs do not shy away from turning this into a tempo play where you get a 5/4 and an extra +1/+1.

Bane of Doom

Bane of Doom has long been one of my favorite cards in the game since Blizzard first buffed it and I took it to legend with Zoo. However, due to a weaker pool, this did drop off in popularity. Losing Mal’ganis really hurt its consistency, as did adding in lower-impact demons to the game. Even so, the five mana spell is absolutely good enough here for two reasons. One, this is a midrange deck which is prepared to play slower games. You will often go into the later turns, and being able to remove a minion while adding your own threat in one card is a very big swing (especially when your opponent is low on health). You want to primarily use this card like how Shaman uses Jade Lighting to gain tempo and keep up pressure.

The other reason this card (and the card explained below) matters so much is because it creates demons. There are a lot of bad demons in Hearthstone that are not worth running. However, when those demons come out for free and have “battlecry: deal two damage” they get a lot better. In addition, this is a list where the demon tag is of the upmost importance. You have six cards that directly care about controlling a demon on the board, and two others that care about you having a body on board. You may not want to get a one or two drop, but if you can make use of those small minions then it doesn’t really matter. No matter what happens with the demon you spawn you are still taking something off the board. If you have the spell in hand you want to do your best to play to it. Predict what minions your opponent might have and then see if you can trade into it to set up Bane.

Kabal Trafficker

If this whole deck builds into a cohesive weapon, Kabal Trafficker is the secret laser/missile cannon on the back that is just going to blast your opponents into the dark nothingness. This card is just so good. Not only do you get a very fair (and on-curve) 6/6 for six, but you also get a mini Ysera that generates more and more value each turn it lives. At the very worst this card puts you out ahead because it forces removal or a trade and then replaces itself with its ability. Yes, most demons are not exciting, but as covered above, the demon tag is very important. Not to mention, just having extra bodies on the board can help you keep up pressure. The fact that some of those bodies can be huge end-game threats is just an added bonus.

Kabal Trafficker is your finisher against slower decks and the way you will close out a lot of games. This is very important to note because you almost always want to bait out removal or AOE before putting this down. This is because if your opponent cannot quickly kill this card the game will rapidly slip out of control. You have many ways to get removal in a buff-oriented build like this one, and even using something like Doomguard to force your opponent’s Siphon Soul can be right. On the reverse, you can also run this out if you want to bait out AOE or tie up your opponent’s mana. This is such a high priority threat that if your opponent has already used their hard removal they will be forced to pull the trigger on something like Twisting Nether just to get rid of it.

Matchups

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

Pirate Warrior

I would say this game largely comes down to how fast you start. If you can begin with a demon on turn one and then buff it and then put down another threat Pirate is going to be forced to use their weapons to clear the board, which quickly locks them out of the game (see what I didn’t do in the video). You need to get ahead of Pirate if you are going to win because they can just push much better than you can. For that reason, whoever comes out ahead on board after turn three is usually going to take this one. Know that and do whatever it takes to limit your opponent’s early threats, even if that means doing something un-intuitive like using Demonfire on an opposing minion.

This game is going to come down to finding a balance between your damage and your life total. You need to get pressure on your opponent (since you will not be able to race them if the game goes too long) but you also have to be very careful about taking damage. Lifetap and Flame Imp are both large liabilities in this matchup and you want to use them sparingly. It is also important to leverage your taunts and set them up into situations that are going to be hard for your opponent to clear. Defender of Argus is almost always going to lead to a win, especially if you are in the middle of a race. Work very hard to get two targets for the defender, and always try to prioritize high-health minions. Pirate usually ignores the board for face around turn four, and that is how you can make them pay for it.

Aggro Shaman

This is perhaps your most 50/50 matchup. Shaman is a very good deck that has many ways to simply lock you out of the game. Not only do they  come with strong removal options that also build up the board, but Flamewreathed Faceless is going to be a big issue if you cannot properly deal with it. Use all of your resources to pump out threats over the first three turns to make sure you can do seven damage on four. In addition, understand that buffs are going to be your biggest resource. Not only because they usually force out burn onto the board (saving your precious life), but they also do a very good job of trading. Your opponent will often make plays like running out a Tunnel Trogg into a turn one Voidwalker, and if you can use that Voidwalker to trade and get a 3/4 you should be able to roll from there. Those are the plays you need to constantly look for in this game because tempo is going to win the day.

This is a matchup where you want to work very hard to get control of the board. In fact, I would say you want to forget about damage for the most part. That is because you are going to win the long game through your inherent card advantage and big minions. Where you lose is during the first turns where the board slips away and your opponent curves right into an overstatted minion into another overstatted minion. You just simply aren’t going to match Shaman if they get ahead so you need to make sure you are never behind. Don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on an early Soulfire just to take something down. Your biggest advantage in this game is that Shaman is going to overload a lot. If you can force them to use multiple resources in one turn it will likely lock them out of the next, enabling you to take the lead.

Miracle Rogue

Miracle Rogue continues to skyrocket in popularity as the weeks move on, and that really helps you out. Yes, they do have their shiny new Pirate package, but they also have basically no AOE and cannot deal with numerous big threats at once. If you can successfully put out a buff or two then they will quickly crumble. This game is going to be very Zoo-like in that you want to start out with minion after minion and dare your opponent to come up with proper answers. They may be able to keep up with the first one or two, but they can’t pace you forever. Rogue is a class that wants to play relaxed for the first few turns and then curve into midrange threats that build to their combo. If they have to play spells instead of minions just to preserve life you should be able to overwhelm them before Auctioneer drops.

Be aggressive. This is perhaps the only match where you just want to take the aggro mindset and push as hard as you can. Rogue is almost always going to be able to win a game that gets to turn six or seven. There’s just no real way around that. However, if you force out their cards and chip away at their hand during the first half of the game it will severely limit their options during the second. Allocate all of your buffs into damage, but also be careful not to leave anything Rogue plays alive unless you absolutely need to get in hits. Any of their cards can bring large amounts of damage out of nowhere.

Renolock

The little deck that could, Renolock continues to chug along despite having more and more counters popping up around every corner of the ladder. This is a game that, barring an extremely unlucky draw, you should have no problem winning (as noted in the vids). This is because, as good as the tools have gotten for Renolock, they still want to sit back for the first few turns and Lifetap into their mid-to-late game. That simply does not work against you because your buffs and strong early minions allow you to get ahead of their mid-game AOE. That then means they are going to depend on playing some large four drop and then hope to stabilize for the turn or two after. You can counter than just by pushing hard and working to keep anything you have on the board. If your opponent does nothing until that turn-four minion you should push right past it and just only focus on doing damage. The more you pressure the easier this is going to be.

Dragon Priest

Though Dragon Priest is on its way out, it still is more popular these days than Jade Druid. This game is going to be an absolute dog fight with you doing everything you can to make sure your opponent makes plays they don’t want to make. That is never an easy road to take, but it is the one you must choose because if you don’t Dragon will overwhelm. They are the only class in the game that has bigger minions then you do, and if you give them chances to make value trades and take the board they will. Prioritize your buffs in this one. Every time you manage to kill something and keep a minion around it is going to put Priest into a bad position. Not only do they lack removal, but if they spend one of their early turns killing something then you can simply bounce right back. Do that enough and they will never get on board.

Priest’s biggest weakness is, as always, four attack minions. Never forget this and use your buffs to create minions with four attack whenever you can. Having a 3/2 and a 4/4 is much better than putting all of your eggs into one basket. Beyond that, you want to sculpt this game in a way where you open up early and then control the board right into Kabal Trafficker. The six drop always works well at the high end, but it is exceptionally strong against Priest because it stops Dragonfire Potion dead in its tracks. That means they will usually have to burn a Shadow Word: Death and cripple their turn six or seven.

Mulligan Guide

The mulligans for this deck are simple because it is going to take the same path as Zoo. That is to say, if it doesn’t help your early curve you should go ahead and throw it back. Malchezaar’s Imp, Flame Imp, Voidwalker, Dark Peddler and Tiny Knight of Evil are your must-keeps, while you want to hold onto Street Trickster and Imp Gang Boss if you have the coin.

When deciding to keep buffs, you only want Demonfire if you are facing a board-centric deck and you have early demons. Bloodfury Potion should only be kept with a good demon-heavy opening where you think you will get something to stick by turn three. In terms of higher-cost cards, Defender of Argus is a good keep when you have a good curve against an aggro deck and Crystalweaver is solid when you have the coin and a curve against control or midrange. Soulfire should be kept alongside a cheap opening when facing aggro.

Conclusion

I always enjoy making decks that I’ve been thinking about for sometime. The reason for that is there is just something awesome about finally being able to go through numerous options and put a solid list together. I had a lot of fun trying out Hearthstone’s various demons to come to a conclusion here, and I think it’s in a good place. While there is always room for experimentation, this one feels like it’s close. Until next week, happy holidays!