Guide: Ladder Grind with Zoo Lock
Today we feature an article from William, who will talk about his experiences with the popular Zoo Lock.
Hello all, my name is William and I have been playing Hearthstone since Test Season 1. In this article I’d like to go through the overly popular Warlock Zoo deck that is seen frequently in the ranked ladder.
From my personal experience, this deck is very effective in climbing up until around rank 5 which is where this decks starts to see more troubles. There are many variations to this deck depending on personal preference so throughout this article if cards that are not pictured in the decklist are mentioned, don’t fret; they are just alternative cards that are also viable in this deck.
The aggro zoo deck originally coined by Reynad focusses on flooding the board with low mana minions in the early game and direct damage to the opponent’s face and using mid game charge minions to seal the deal. As a whole, this deck should not be too difficult to play well but the main things to note are maximizing damage with placement of Dire Wolf Alpha, RNG of Knife Jugglerand trading minions.
Generally, when thinking about trading minions with this deck you need to think whether or not the opponent has any removal in their hand. If not, you have a reason to swing into their face rather than into their minions as most likely, the next turn they will trade the minions themselves and you will come out ahead in terms of hero damage.
If you’re looking for a quick way to climb the ladder, the Zoo deck and other rush decks are ideal due to the fact that you either win fast or you lose fast.
The Knife Juggler is going to be your early game ‘removal threat’. Since you will be playing a lot of minions, if your Knife Juggler isn’t dealt with, the one damage per minion stacks up a fair bit.
If I’m going second, I find myself coining out this minion which will possibly bait out their early removal such as Wrath/Frost Bolt and if not dealt with will synergise very well with the minions played next turn.
This card may not pose much of a threat but it sticks – meaning, it can potentially trade itself for more than one minion because of its divine shield.
When buffed with the Shattered Sun Cleric, it poses a much larger threat than its base 1/1 stats - on paper, its stats have doubled.
This is an interesting and very situational minion due to its ability to buff friendly minions but only having one health. Playing this minion on turn 1 or 2 versus classes with hero power removals such as Rogue or Druid is almost pointless - you won’t get much out of the ability.
I find this card really shines when you go second and coin out a taunt creature such as Voidwalkeror Shieldbearer. If you are not versing a Mage, the chances of the Priestess being killed is lower than playing it by itself - of course, your opponent might have other removal such as Wrath but the chances are still lower.
The reason why Faerie Dragon is in this deck is similar to the reason for the Argent Squire. Because it cannot be targeted by single target removal spells, the dragon sticks around and can only be killed by AOE spells and other minions.
Dire Wolf Alpha
Make sure this dog is placed correctly between minions to maximize damage output. For 2 mana, you get a potential 4 damage and 2 health making it a staple in this deck.
Defender of Argus
A really nice 4 drop to both buff up your minions out of AOE removal range (most of the time against a predictable Explosive Trap as most minions in the deck are 2 health) and force the opponent to trade with them.
Shattered Sun Cleric
This minion synergises very well with Argent Squire and Faerie Dragon. The extra one health it gives to a minion can buff it out of Consecrate or Explosive Trap range.
Also a very annoying card to play against as classes such as Mage or Druid who have 1 damage hero powers. The buff can let a minion survive up to another two turns, getting maximum value out of the minion.
A staple card in almost every rush/mid range deck. The removal it provides with the divine shield as well as putting a 4/2 body on the board is unparalleled.
I like to run one Power Overwhelming to synergise with Leeroy to deal a potential 10 damage at turn 5. Leeroy is always better kept for the finishing blow due to his most likely death on the next turn because of the Whelps.
Personally, the number or Doomguards (1 or 2) varies in my deck from time to time. In the past, the number of times I got 2 Doomguards in my hand at the same time really made the Doomguard lose value.
Ideally, Doomguard is to be played when you have no other cards in your hand however the situation may not present itself and so Doomguard should usually be saved for big creatures that are otherwise threatening without the Doomguard’s presence.
Theoretically, you should have ended the match before you get to late game. However, versus classes such as control warrior who drag out the game for a long time, you may find yourself in a late game situation where the opponent has big minions to play yet you do not. If you’re in this situation you have most likely lost the game but a lucky topdeck Soulfire could potentially do the remaining 4 damage you need.
Personally, I also like to run a Power Overwhelming specifically for a situation like this where you can combo it with Argent Commander or Leeroy to kill the enemy hero in late game provided they do not have taunt creatures.
Leeroy can be replaced with an Arcane Golem. For one less mana and no Whelps for the opponent, you get 2 less Attack. One thing to be mindful about with Arcane Golem is the battlecry which gives the opponent a mana crystal.
Leeroy is generally a finishing card therefore if Arcane Golem is filling a similar role, the mana crystal should cause too much trouble.
The role of this card is to protect and buff other minions while providing board presence. An alternative replacement is the Shieldbearerwhich can combo well with Dire Wolf Alpha.
As a general rule when mulliganing, you do not want to keep any card above 3 or 4 mana because of the extremely low mana curve. Therefore the cards you definitely do not want to be keeping are Doomguard, Argent Commander and Leeroy. Other low drop cards are fine however situational buff cards such as Abusive Sergeant should be discarded unless you have other one drops in your hand which means you can use the sergeant the next turn. If your opening hand consists of a 1, 2 and 3 drop consider not changing any of them as it guarantees efficient mana usage up to turn 3.
Mulligan Example 1
The Argent Squire was a good card to keep as it guarantees a turn 1 play. Defender of Argus however comes into play too slowly and ideally requires at least 2 minions in play. The Shattered Sun Cleric is good but considering there were no 2 drops in the opening hand, it was swapped out. If there was a 2 drop and the Squire in the opening hand, I would consider keeping the 3 drop as it guarantees an efficient play for turns 1, 2 and 3.
The resulting hand was a Doomguard, Argent Squire and Faerie Dragon. The Doomguard is definitely not ideal for the starting hand however the Faerie Dragon provides a solid 2 drop.
Mulligan Example 2
The only card discarded here was the Abusive Sergeant. If there were two 1 drops out of the other 3 cards, I would consider keeping the Sergeant as this would allow for a turn 1 minion plus a turn 2 Abusive Sergeant with another 1 drop.
The replacement card was a Flame Imp. The good thing about this is that there in now a possible turn 1 Coin into Flame Imp and Argent Squireplay and then a turn 2 Dire Wolf Alpha to increase the tempo.
Mulligan Example 3
The opening hand was decent and so there was no need to replace anything in this instance. There is a good turn 1 and 2 play with the Mortal Coil for removal.
Match Ups and Counters
The control warrior does exactly what the name suggest: control the board. Not only will the Warrior have answers to your early game drops, they will have large minions that you will not be able to deal with later on such as Cairne Bloodhoof, Yseraor .
However, depending on their draws, you may get lucky and be able to apply enough pressure early to finish the game before these big creatures come into play. Control Warrior’s also tend not to use many taunt creatures which works in your favour however cards such as Brawl can clear your side of the board.
The Armorsmithis also a card you want to clear out early on. Often, the armor gained using this card as well as Whirlwindwill stack up a fair bit which not only set you back and drag out the game longer but will also give armor for Shield Slam.
Expect a hard time against a Hunter Aggro deck. Since you will have several minions on the board at once, it provides the Hunter the perfect circumstance to Buzzard into Unleash the Hounds.
This match-up is basically a race to see who deals 30 damage to the enemy hero first and with the Hunter hero power working in conjunction with the Warlock hero power, the damage stacks up heavily against you. An Explosive Trapcan also completely wipe your board so the general strategy of the Zoo Lock is countered.
The main thing to watch out for when playing against Watcher Druid is Swipeand taunts. In the early game, expect the Druid to have a Wrath or two in their hand so keep that in mind when playing your minions.
If it gets to the point in the game where their huge protectors or Ironbark Protectorcome into play, it will be very difficult for the Zoo deck to deal with it without having the board cleared or a Soulfire/Power Overwhelming.
A very good match-up for Zoo because Handlock usually takes some time to get rolling. You generally want to save Soulfire for when the giants start coming into play.
Be mindful of Hellfireand Shadowflameas well as early taunts enablers such as Ancient Watcher/ Sunfury Protectorcombo.
The main thing the Zoo deck is weak against is AOE removal such as:
• Starving Buzzard/Unleash the Hounds
• Abomination(not often seen in constructed)
Try to either bait these cards out or test your opponent’s hand for these cards. If you present a board that is clearly ripe for Consecration yet your opponent does not play it, then you can assume up to a certain degree that they do not have a Consecration in their hand at the moment.
Warlock is an extremely strong class with two main decks, Zoo and Handlock, dominant and frequently seen in the ranked ladder. The Zoo deck is a relatively inexpensive deck which can be potentially constituent of only rare, common and basic cards yet despite this, can still be a viable and competitive deck.
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