Verdict and Analysis of TGT Impact on Warlock

Analysis of Druid, Hunter and Mage Analysis of Paladin Analysis of Priest Analysis of Rogue Analysis of Shaman Analysis of Warlock (you’re here) Analysis of Warrior (coming soon!) In this series I want to talk about how TGT cards have impacted each of the classes. Analyze the new cards, see whether they are seeing play […]

Introduction

In this series I want to talk about how TGT cards have impacted each of the classes. Analyze the new cards, see whether they are seeing play or not and judge whether the class was improved with the TGT or not, as well as the latest sample deck lists of these classes. I’ll give one of the three final verdicts:

  • Positive – The class has significantly improved with TGT – either the new, very strong archetypes were created or the old ones has became better.
  • Neutral – The class received positive changes, but they are rather small – no new archetypes created or they aren’t very strong and the old ones were only slightly boosted or got cards that are similar in strength to the current ones and can be used as a tech/alternate choices.
  • Negative – The class got close to no good cards, no new viable archetypes were created and the old ones also didn’t get a lot of alternative card choices.

7 classes done, it’s the time from first of the final two – Warlock!

Overview

Warlock might have been the strongest class in Hearthstone for a long time. Two viable Warlock archetypes – Handlock and Zoo Warlock – were almost always on the top of tier lists. Things were changing sometimes, but Warlock was always carried by the strength of his Hero Power. Well, TGT didn’t really keep up the trend. I don’t mean that Warlock became weak – the class is still strong. But while a lot of other classes got better, Warlock didn’t really get anything very significant. I mean, Warlock got a lot of fun cards, even a new archetype was created! But when the new archetype isn’t really viable and the old ones didn’t get better, it’s hard to say that Warlock is still on the top. The cards introduced are really interesting and I think that some of them might actually be great in the future, just not now. Theme of this expansion for Warlock seems to be discarding and effects that benefit from it. Besides that, couple of new demons, cards that synergize with Demon and a new Legendary, which can be classified as a “trap” – for a new player it would seem very strong, but the experienced players know that it’s not that good. But, let’s start with the new spells introduced.

Warlock TGT Spells

  • Demonfuse – I’m not sure what Blizzard designers were smoking when they made this card, but it had to be a really strong stuff, since they’ve decided that it’s a card worth releasing. The direct comparison to this card is Demonfire. Both cost 2 mana, both can buff the friendly Demon. Demonfire gets only +2/+2, not +3/+3, but is more flexible, because it can also deal 2 damage to enemy minions. Well, since Demonfire is nowhere to be seen, giving a new card +1/+1, but reducing the flexibility won’t break it and it should still be pretty fine? Maybe actually well-balanced? I mean, it’s restricted to Demons, it can be Silenced etc. Ooooh, wait. I’m missing one thing. When you use Demonfuse, you give enemy a free Wild Growth! Enjoy! As you probably already know, it’s not good. It’s bad. The only way I can see it being used is some Demon-based burst deck. Something like Power Overwhelming you can use when pushing for lethal. Plus it’d be usable even if you don’t have lethal yet and you can afford to give enemy 1 mana crystal. If there was some Demon with Charge (besides Doomguard), this could serve the reach purpose. Oh. And obviously, in the late game, the effect doesn’t matter. Generally on turns 7+ the effect isn’t that big any more. But it’s really unusable on turn 2.
  • Fist of Jaraxxus – Discard Warlock, eh? I think it’s a great incentive to play the discard cards – discarding always felt bad, the cards that had discard printed on them had to be really broken to be put into the deck. Like a 5 mana 5/7 with Charge that you can also get out with Voidcaller. Or a 0 mana 4 damage spells – the pre-nerf Soulfire (post-nerf it was used only in Malygos deck). But if more cards like that are going to be introduced, I think that Discard Warlock deck might actually be viable. Fist of Jaraxxus can be bad or crazy. At the base, it’s a 4 random damage for 4 mana. Compare it to Flamecannon and you can clearly see that it sucks. I mean, it can hit face, which can be both good and bad, so all in all I think it’s overpriced by 2 mana. But then again, if you discard it, you play it for free. Meaning you get nice tempo. This way you play a strong card that has a negative effect (discarding) AND not only the negative effect is diminished, you get a free tempo from it. People have tried to use it in aggressive Zoo build with Soulfires, it worked okay, but it wasn’t impressive. I guess we need more cards that synergize with discards for it to be really worth.
  • Dark Bargain – Another cool card that is, hm, pretty bad. The good thing about this card is that you destroy 2 enemy minions for 6 mana, that’s a nice value, especially in the late game. The bad news is that you need to discard two cards and you can’t target it – it’s random. The discarding part is well, easy to explain. You can’t really use it in Handlock – you value your cards too high to just get rid of two of them randomly. It has negative synergy with Mountain Giant and Twilight Drake. Not to mention discarding your Taunt giver or Antique Healbot often means you lost the game. Zoo maybe? First thing, I think Zoo is too fast to use this card. 6 mana removal? I mean, it’s cool, but around that turn Zoo usually wants to switch the board control strategy to pushing strategy. It can get rid of Taunts and it works nicely against certain classes that play only a few, but big minions (like Druid), but I think it’s too slow. Also, you often keep your big Demons in the hand when you wait for Voidcaller draw, so discarding Doomguard and/or Mal’ganis can hurt. You often don’t empty your hand as a Zoo until turn 7-8 unless you got a really fast start. It has good synergy with Fist of Jaraxxus and maybe it’s going to have more synergy with other cards in the future. Right now I can’t see it working too well. I mean, if you could CHOOSE which minions you want to destroy, it would be so much better. But as it turns out, if you “destroy” Haunted Creeper or Piloted Shredder it doesn’t really help you. Considering the popularity of Paladin right now, Silver Hand Recruits also aren’t the best targets. Oh, that’s a nightmare – discarding 2 cards and paying 6 mana just to kill two 1/1’s. Overall, I think the spell has potential, but it’s not good enough right now.

TGT Warlock Minions

  • Tiny Knight of Evil – Another card that benefits from discarding. It passes the vanilla test – 3/2 for 2 is good enough. The effect, however, not so much. Realistically if you drop it on turn 2 and it survives a turn, you probably won’t play more than one discard effect, turning it into a 4/3. A 3/2 that can sometimes be 4/3 is pretty mediocre. It still gets traded by most of the small drops and pushing for one more damage is not something that’s very important in the Warlock class. The only situation I see it being good in the early game is when you open with it and enemy plays 2 attack minion into it. Then you can buff it up and kill enemy guy for free. Later in the game you can actually combo it to something like a 5/4 in the proper deck, a 5/4 2-drop is actually very strong. But I don’t think there are enough viable discard effects to push this minion into decks. Maybe, like I’ve said before, in a deck that really puts a focus on discarding, it would be nice. But right now deck like this doesn’t exist. I think it might see some play in future expansions.
  • Wrathguard – Did I just say that 4/3 for 2 isn’t that good? Here you go, 4/3 for 2. Maybe let’s start with the effect. Warlock takes as much damage as this minion. Since you’d play this in a pretty aggressive deck, most of the time it doesn’t matter. Only if you play against hyper-Aggro deck like Face Hunter or Aggro Paladin, then taking some additional damage in the early game might hurt. But against rest – it’s fine. It’s 3 damage most of the time, enemy rarely overkills it. So it’s like a bigger version of the Flame Imp. Flame Imp is really good in terms of tempo. This guy? Not so much. There are few problems. First, 2-drop slot is really contested. We already have A LOT of good 2-drops in the game. So you trade some good, positive effect (e.g. Knife Juggler) for +1/+1. The 1 more attack doesn’t matter THAT much, but if you play Aggro style, the 1 or 2 additional damage it might deal over a 3 attack minion might matter in the long run (no more “one damage off lethal”). The 1 more health is good when you’re dealing with 2 attack minions – so most of the 1-drops and 2/2’s / 2/3’s. And that’s probably all good things about this card. The bad thing is that it doesn’t take much more to remove it. Most of the early removals like Darkbomb, Frostbolt or Fiery War Axe can deal 3 damage. And it gets traded by 3/2’s. Wrathguard is definitely not bad. The problem is that enemy can abuse the effect in the late game. Obviously not every deck can do that, but there are quite a lot that can. For example, Warrior can Shield Slam it for a lot. I’m not talking about 20 damage to the face, but realistically Warrior can get to 7 Armor very easily even starting with 0. Even 9 with Justicar Trueheart. Rogue can get a really big Blade Flurry. Something like Deadly Poison + Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil + Blade Flurry means you take 18 damage instead of 12. Even a Mage Fireballing it means he got “2 in 1” – removed your minion and pushed for 6 face damage with Fireball anyway. It doesn’t mean that you can’t play it in the late game, but it’s much more risky. Wrathguard is not really a fit into a standard Zoo. Zoo wants sticky minions, wants the targets to buff, wants to fight for the board control. This minion wants to push for damage. If you compare it to Nerubian Egg or even Haunted Creeper – the standard 2-drops Zoo runs – you can see how different they are. The card is good, I think it might work in some decks in the future. People have already tried it in the aggressive Zoo with discard effects and it worked okay-ish. The minion has potential, but it’s not flawless.
  • Dreadsteed – Oh, the dead horse. I’ve actually written a whole article about this card, so you can check it out here if you want to. To make a long story short, a new archetype was created around this card. It didn’t last too long, because honestly, the deck was really gimmicky. I’ve had positive winrate with it around rank 5, but it wasn’t good enough. The card itself is really cool. It’s one of those cards that are really, really hard to balance. Make it 2/1 and it would be overpowered. Make it cost 3 and it also could be overpowered. Right now, it’s slightly below good – it’s mediocre. It’s the source of infinite 1 damage pings. Obviously, having one Dreadsteed on the board doesn’t make that much impact. But! You have some ways to copy it (Kel’thuzad, Baron Rivendare) and easily get 4-5 of them at the same time. Which is much more threatening. Good thing about them is that they don’t die. You can trade enemy minions for “free” every turn after you make the initial investment. Enemy can’t really get rid of them once you clone them. They survive the AoEs like Hellfire and Twisting Nether. They are great target for buffs like Abusive Sergeant or Power Overwhelming. That’s the good side. The bad side? First thing – they’re so SLOOOOW. Playing them on turn 4 loses you so much tempo. You basically play a 1/1 for 4 mana. Turn 4 is very important – it’s the turn of Piloted Shredder (or Voidcaller in Warlock) and 1/1 can’t really answer those. Talking about Voidcaller – getting it out of Voidcaller is the only way to not really lose the tempo. But in that scenario, even if you don’t LOSE tempo, Voidcaller which is supposed to gain you a lot of tempo doesn’t do that much. Next thing – Silence. Once you copy them, enemy has pretty much no way to kill all of them (Mass Dispel is probably the only viable one, but it’s not played). But if you get out one on the board, one Silence can completely ruin your play. Since a big part of the deck is based around the Dreadsteed (obviously), losing one without doing anything with it hurts. You also have to build a deck around it – you can’t just throw it into any Warlock deck and expect it to get value. Right now the deck is not strong enough. Maybe in future, who knows? I think the card has potential. Oh! And it has very cool animation when the Deathrattle procs!
  • Void Crusher – Oh, this card could be so much stronger with only a small change. It makes your taps really valuable in slow matchups. Even though the 5/4 for 6 is bad, every time you tap, you kill one enemy minion. Sadly, you also kill one own minion. Sadly, that minion can be the Void Crusher itself. That’s the small change I think that could make it better – if it actually couldn’t target itself with the Inspire. In the current state, you want to play it in a deck that runs a lot of small, useless minions/tokens/something you actually want to kill (Nerubian Egg?). The problem is that it’s still RNG. If it hits itself, you pay 6 mana to remove random enemy minion – not really worth it. Siphon Soul is much better option in that scenario. But if you have faith in RNGesus, it might win you a lot of games. In faster matchups, obviously useless. Not only it doesn’t have any immediate impact (you need 8 mana to play this and tap), it has weak stats, but it also kills RANDOM minion and faster decks tend to flood the board with small stuff. Oh, and it’s a Demon. But this one doesn’t really matter – getting it out of Voidcaller might actually be BAD for you if you’re the one that has the board and enemy doesn’t – you can’t tap then. It has a nice synergy with Dreadsteed – since those can’t die, if you have a lot of them on the board, there is a big chance that Void Crusher hits one and it basically costs you nothing to kill random enemy minion (besides being forced to Hero Power, but that’s not a big thing). But even if you have 6 Dreadsteeds on the board, you still have 1/7 chance that Void Crusher is going to target himself.
  • Fearsome Doomguard – Not much to say about this guy, really. He’s not the thing you play in the Constructed. It’s like a better version of War Golem. But since we all know that War Golem completely sucks, this also isn’t good. 6/8 is a better stat distribution than 7/7, and the fact that it’s a Demon can have some synergies in Warlock, but that’s it. Slightly better version of a garbage card is still very bad. Not sure why they really printed it. Maybe for Arena purposes? I don’t know, it’s actually fine in Arena, so maybe that’s it. Unless you are a new player and you play a budget version of some Demon deck, you’re not going to play it in Constructed.
  • Wilfred Fizzlebang – I’ve waited for this guy for a long time. I honestly thought that he’s going to be a new Warlock Hero, but he is a great fit into TGT. Wilfred Fizzlebang, the guy that summoned Lord Jaraxxus in WoW. And that’s probably your goal in Hearthstone too – it summoning Jaraxxus is one of the not many outcomes when he’s good. But let’s analyze it first. The 4/4 for 6 is obviously very bad. It should have a powerful effect. And it has – but on Inspire. It means that you realistically can’t play it before turn 8 if you want to get any value. If it would fit anywhere, it should be a slower deck. The slowest Warlock archetype is Handlock. And even Handlock runs a lot of cheap cards – Zombie Chow (sometimes), Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Ancient Watcher, Sunfury Protector… that’s quite a high chance that you’re going to discount something insignificant. And the thing is, you’re not getting a second chance. It’s really rare that a 4/4 minion is going to survive on turn 8+. And if enemy really doesn’t have an answer for a 4/4, you should be winning the game anyway. You start getting value on 4+ drops. It’s still not great, but having a free Twilight Drake or Sludge Belcher is not bad. A good tempo play to offset the weak turn you had to play this guy on. The dream scenario is getting one of your big guys. Dr. Boom, Mal’ganis, probably the best one is Lord Jaraxxus. You can do some really powerful moves. Like Life Tap, drop the Mountain Giant, play Lord Jaraxxus, Hero Power again and Taunt both of those. But that rarely happens and I don’t think that it’s worth to play it for those moments. I mean, if it sticks to the board, it can get a lot of value. But why not just play Emperor Thaurissan? As a Handlock, you are bound to have a lot of cards in your hand. Emperor discounting 5+ cards gets, on average, more value than Wilfred. If Emperor sticks to the board, it has even bigger chance to win you the game. You don’t bank on RNG to discount the one card you need – you discount your whole hand, so you are sure that your next turns are going to be stronger. You can also drop him once you have the cards you want to be cheaper in your hand already. Not to mention that you can drop him on turn 6 and don’t have to wait until 8. And 5/5 on 6 has way higher chance to live than 4/4 on 8. Overall, Wilfred is cool, but he is pretty bad in direct comparison to Emperor Thaurissan. And you don’t really want to play both of those. One thing that’s cool about Wilfred is that if you run it in some crazy combo deck where you want to get your combo piece for 0 mana, it can actually work in like… 1 in 50 games. But still enough to have a Trolden video material!

TGT Neutral Minions

  • Gormok the Impaler – Zoo is one of the best decks that Gormok can fit into. The deck is really board centric and runs a lot of sticky minions or tokens. Gormok has great synergy with cards like Haunted Creeper, Imp-losion or even Nerubian Egg (it sometimes sticks to the board for a few turns without activation so it’s +1 minion). The same reason why Sea Giant is a consideration in Zoo – a lot of small minions means that you’re going to see Gormok’s effect pretty often. I did some testing and I have to say that it’s definitely not bad. Activating it on turn 4 isn’t that easy, but sometimes happens. However, later in the game it’s usually very nice if you can drop some other minions or Imp-losion on the same turn. The dream would be Knife Juggler + Imp-losion + Gormok the Impaler – not only it deals a lot of damage to enemy minions, it also puts a very threatening board. I don’t think Gormok is good in any other Warlock archetype, but in Zoo he works quite well. It’s not auto-pick, but definitely a consideration.
  • Bolf Ramshield – This minion sucks. It really does. But there is one niche when it can fit and actually be useful – Handlock. Handlock gets incredibly strong, but it has a very slow start. Meaning enemy can easily rush you down. Molten Giants are the reason why it’s not that easy, but those (when Taunted up) only protect your life total from minions, not from spells. Bolf, on the other hand, kinda works as a “spell taunt”. After you Taunt up you still need a way to protect your face against spells. Healing up is an option – but what if you didn’t play Moltens yet? You don’t want to go back to ~20 health, but staying around 10 can be dangerous (e.g. 2x Fireball, 2x Kill Command). Bolf is an option. You stabilize, you drop Bolf, you win the game. It’s like you had 9 additional HP that doesn’t affect your current HP – exactly what Handlocks wants. You’re still around 10 HP for the sake of Moltens, but you’re not in the range of reach spells. And if Bolf gets silenced, well, 3/9 minion isn’t that bad if you run Sunfury Protector and Defender of Argus, right? And once again, it’s only an option. A lot of great Handlock players have tested it and they had mixed results. In theory it can be good, but it’s very situational and good only against certain opponents.
  • Frost Giant – Another Giant that can theoretically fit into Handlock. I remember big discussion whether it’s worth to put him into Handlock or not. As it turns out, Handlocks don’t tap AS MUCH as expected. It obviously depends on the deck you face – against Aggro it’s often only 2 or 3 taps per game, which makes Frost Giant pretty bad. But same goes for the Mountain Giants. In slower matchups, Handlocks taps much more. 5+ per game is nothing strange. Some games Handlock gets as much as 6-7 taps. Meaning Frost Giant could be played for 3-4 mana. Compared to Mountain Giant, the biggest problem is that you can’t drop it on turn 4. That’s a big play – 8/8 on turn 4. Later in the game, 8/8 is still strong, but not as much. You can play one Frost Giant as a kinda tempo play in slower matchups. Frost is better than Mountain in the late game, when you’ve already tapped a lot, but you don’t necessarily have a lot of cards. There is some point where you actually start playing more cards than you draw or you just can’t tap any more, then your hand size is not too impressive. Playing Mountain Giant for 7-8 mana is not that bad, but it’s not exactly a good tempo play. Frost Giant might work as a tempo play. Like the last two, it’s only an option. Probably not even great one overall. But it might work and in “best case scenario” dropping one for almost free can win you some games.
  • Twilight Guardian – Like in other classes, Twilight Guardian is an auto-include into pretty much any Dragon deck. Warlock has Malygos deck, where this Dragon fits perfectly. You want to stall the game and 3/6 Taunt on turn 4 does exactly that. Since it’s a Dragon it also serves as an activator for other “hold a Dragon” effects like Blackwing Technician and Blackwing Corruptor. Great Taunt option, I think it’s around the level of Sludge Belcher (a little weaker, because it doesn’t have 2 bodies – but it’s a Dragon!) for 1 less mana. I actually thought about adding Chillmaw too, but I don’t think it’s necessary in Warlock. Between Hellfire and Shadowflame, Warlock has enough AoE. But you can also try to fit it in if you want more, why not!
  • Lance Carrier – Another potential Zoo Warlock card. The deck already runs two Abusive Sergeant and I honestly think that they are better. 2/1 stats generally trade better and it’s a 1-drop, not a 2-drop. You can fit Abusive into your turns much easier. But! Lance Carrier’s perma attack buff can actually work very nicely in certain scenarios. For example, if you open with Voidwalker and enemy skips the turn. Following it with Abusive is kinda bad. I mean, you push for 2 more damage, but that’s it. Lance Carrier, however, turns your Voidwalker into a 3/3 Taunt, which is permanent. It gives you another way to activate Nerubian Egg and this activation is even better. Just like in last example, Abusive Sergeant can’t activate it if you don’t have a target to trade into. But Lance Carrier can! You can Coin out the Egg on turn 1 and play Carrier on 2. Even if enemy won’t play anything for some reason or plays a minion that won’t kill the Egg outright (e.g. you can’t suicide the Egg into Haunted Creeper), the buff is permanent. Meaning you can still attack next turn. It might bait even better Silence, but against certain decks it might work really fine. The biggest problem with Lance Carrier is the 1/2 body. If you have no target for the buff, you can’t really play it. Even if it was 2/2, you could just drop it, but 1/2 gets traded for free by pretty much any 2-drop. Still, if 2x Abusive is not enough for you, Lance Carrier seems like a good option.
  • Refreshment Vendor – Another card that you can use in the slower Warlock builds, especially Handlock, but also things like Malygos Warlock or Control Warlock. Obviously the best turn 4 in Handlock is Twilight Drake or Mountain Giant, but you don’t always have those. Playing a 3/5 that heals you for 4 is actually good in Aggro matchups. 3/5 trades against the early drops just as good as the 8/8. The fact that you’re playing a slow build means that the healing is USUALLY one sided when played in the mid game. You rarely attack enemy face in the first turns, unless you have a really aggressive opening. And even then, since you want to play the long game, you don’t really mind healing your opponent. It’s great against Aggro and mediocre against slower decks. If Antique Healbots aren’t enough when it comes to the healing and you still get rushed down, consider the Refreshment Vendor as your secondary healing option. 4 is often more than enough to survive one more turn. And in slow Warlock builds, every turn is big.

Verdict & Closing

Final verdict: Negative

Oh, the Warlock. TGT wasn’t really grateful for the class. So, first things first. When it comes to new deck archetypes: one was created, but it isn’t viable. Dreadsteed Warlock is not refined yet and probably needs a lot more cards to be good. Right now you can win some games with it, but there are a lot of better options. The more aggressive version of Zoo with Fist of Jaraxxus was also created, but now it’s pretty much nowhere to be seen. I’ve played few games against them, but that was like 3 weeks ago. Maybe the old, estabilished decks? Demon-Zoo, arguably, got only Wrathguard. Arguably because the card is not a great fit into the deck if you don’t want to make it more aggressive. The only reason why I like this card in the current meta is because it’s good against Dragon Priests. It wrecks the Twilight Whelp and Wyrmrest Agent, while surviving itself. Handlock? Yeah, I’ve seen some Handlocks. With no changes in their list. I mean, at the start I’ve seen some Refreshment Vendor or Bolf Ramshield stuff, but it disappeared and people have started playing the already tested lists once again.

So it’s not like the Warlock got weaker. The competition just got stronger. Zoo got pretty much out of meta for some reason, but I honestly don’t know why – I had good success with the old Demon-Zoo list last week in Legend. You meet Handlocks from time to time, but with no changes at all. Malygos Warlock theoretically got a nice 4-drop, but I haven’t played against one in TGT. Not even once. So all in all, I can’t say that TGT had any positive impact on Warlock.

Example TGT decklists: Demon-Zoo Warlock, Handlock, Malygos Warlock, Aggro Warlock

That’s it for the Warlock’s analysis. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the section below!