Zoo is one of the most popular decks in Hearthstone, and has been for a very long time. Not only is it resilient, but it is very consistent and can operate with a ton of different styles. As such, anytime you want to take a deck to ladder you have to know how to beat it. In this guide we will look at how that is done with Murloc Paladin. The control-combo deck usually does a very good job at dealing with aggro and midrange lists, but Zoo can be bit harder to combat due to their sticky minions and constant card advantage.
Murloc Paladin is a very interesting deck because, while it has its core combo, there are quite a number of choices available when building. These usually differ between healing, taunts and what type of removal you want to run. Some decks like to pack in a ton of one-of kill cards like [card]Humility[/card] and all four keepers, while other decks rely on a ton of healing to get them to their end game. You can play whatever style you see fit, as long as you have what you need to stall past turn ten. To help you understand the core of this deck, two lists have been put below.
The rule when playing Zoo is to take away their minions. They are a deck that thrives on board control and slow build up over time. They then use that build up to bring pressure and threaten your life total. To combat that, you want to try to play or remove something each turn. That means you need to start out with your early minions to help control the board. Mulligan low in this matchup, and know that bodies are much more important than anything else during the opening. Your later minions, AOE and healing can come later.
Cards to Keep
[card]Acolyte of Pain[/card]
[card]Solemn Vigil[/card] can be kept if you have a minion-heavy opening.
Both [card]Antique Healbot[/card] and [card]Sludge Belcher[/card] can be kept if you have a strong opening and the coin.
[card]Old Murk-Eye[/card] is a good keep with the coin.
[card]Truesilver Champion[/card] should always be kept with the coin.
[card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card] is a strong keep with a good opening and the coin.
[toc]How to Win[/toc]
Removal is how you are going to win this game. However, that gets very tricky against Zoo because of how many resilient minions they can play over the course of the game. You need to know what your cards are for, and when you need to use AOE and when you need to use your spot removal. Zoo will swarm early, but that will quickly shift to big minions during the middle and later turns of the game. Be ready for this time, and always make sure to have some form of removal in your back pocket.
While AOE is very important, you always need to make sure you can clear using your minions as much as you can. Zoo is a deck chock-full of deathrattle minions, and you need to pop them before you can fully utilize your board clears. Your minions do this quite well, by either attacking into Zoo’s board, or letting them attack into you. Just always try to get rid of things like [card]Nerubian Egg[/card] or [card]Haunted Creeper[/card] before using your mass clear. The less minions Zoo has, the better.
The final rule is to always be careful with your life total. Though it has become much more midrange over the past half-year, Zoo is still an aggro deck that can do a lot of damage very, very quickly. [card]Power Overwhelming[/card], [card]Doomguard[/card] and their litany of buffs can bring you to zero from the mid-teens with ease, especially if they have a strong board. You want to spend the entire game clearing and playing as conservatively as possible.
[toc]Early Game Strategy[/toc]
As touched on above, you want to get bodies onto the board as much as possible during the early turns. Zoo operates a lot like Secret Paladin and Midrange Druid in that once they get board they just keep building off of those early minions to aggro you down. You want to prevent this by putting bodies onto the board as much as you can. Even playing something like a [card]Murloc Warleader[/card] or an [card]Acolyte of Pain[/card] into a crowd of minions can be a good move. This is because they are going to clear them, which buys you time towards the combo.
While Paladin is light on early removal, [card]Bluegill Warrior[/card] does the job just fine. The charging murloc is not only a very important combo piece, but it trades very nicely into things like [card]Dark Peddler[/card], [card]Dire Wolf Alpha[/card] and [card]Knife Juggler[/card].
[card]Doomsayer[/card] is another great opening option. The reason is that almost no Zoo decks run [card]Ironbeak Owl[/card], meaning the two drop is going to be a clear more often than not. This can kill just about any early minion they play, while also allowing you board priority. Even if your opponent does put something with deathrattle onto the board, it will just make your AOE stronger as the game goes on. The one important thing to remember is to get this down on turn two and not turn three. Otherwise, Zoo may have access to cards like [card]Imp-losion[/card].
The last important card is [card]Wild Pyromancer[/card]. The fiery two drop is very strong when paired with [card]Equality[/card] (which is its primary mode), but it can also be very useful when combined with the coin or another cheap spell. That is especially true against a deck that runs as many 1/1’s as Zoo does. Coin/pyromancer can win you a lot of games when used in the right situation, and you always want to save this card for when you can get immediate value from its effect.
The middle of the game is when Zoo starts getting serious. They are going to shift into their midrange threats, all of which are going to be big. To combat that you need to try and take the board, make good use out of your AOE and always heal if you find yourself in danger.
One of your strongest minions for the middle of the game is [card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card]. This card has two modes, and each of them are very, very powerful against Zoo. Being able to take down a large minion ([card]Doomguard[/card]) can keep the pressure off of your face, while pumping up a Silver Hand Recruit can give you an instant board clear. Both of these plays can swing the game in your favor, and it is important to know which is the right one to use.
Another aspect of the midgame is that it is the part where you have access to both [card]Antique Healbot[/card] and [card]Sludge Belcher[/card]. The five drops are your best tools to stay alive, and you need to know how to properly utilize them. While Belcher is fine on curve, you typically only want to play healbot if you have nothing else to do or you are on your last leg.
[toc]Late Game Strategy[/toc]
Due to their hero power, Zoo is going to be well within combo range for most of the later game. They know this as well as you, which means they are going to be very aggressive here while you do what you can to stall until they die to a swarm of murlocs. Twenty two is how much damage you can do from an empty board, but sometimes you don’t need that much. Keep track of the murlocs that died to see what you can push through.
In addition, never be afraid to use [card]Anyfin Can Happen[/card] as removal. Like [card]Force of Nature[/card], the combo piece can be used to kill minions if you are in a bind. That is especially true because you run two copies of anyfin. That means if you use the first one to trade away your murlocs, the second one’s damage is going to be through the roof.
[card]Aldor Peacekeeper[/card] and [card]Keeper of Uldaman[/card] are both vitally important during these end turns because they are your only options to stopping Zoo’s bigger cards. Zoo has access to a ton of different big threats such as [card]Sylvanas Windrunner[/card], [card]Loatheb[/card], [card]Sea Giant[/card] and [card]Doomguard[/card]. These need to be dealt with very quickly, as they all can supply large amounts of pressure. The keeps are the best way to do this.
Finally, always look for a good way to use [card]Equality[/card]. This card is essential for both the middle and later turns where Zoo begins to put down some heavy power. However, you should only use this spell as a last resort when you have no other removal options. Some boards can appear to be full with enemy minions, but if you can take care of those threats in a way to save Equality, you always should. There is no reason to play it earlier than you have to.
Always look for opportunities to play or trigger [card]Solemn Vigil[/card]. The draw spell is key to your gameplan, especially when you can get it for one or two mana. This happens frequently against Zoo, who relies on so many small minions. Never be afraid to trade in minions or use an early clear just to get the cheap card draw.