The New Standard: Demonlock Revisited
Time to get demonic. As soon as the nerfs were announced I knew I wanted to revisit Demonlock. The deck was a huge contender during the early days of KFT, and now I believe it's primed for a strong comeback. Aggro is still prevalent, but as long as you can hedge your bets against it (which this deck does) you can go long against just about anything else. There are many ways to go with a lock list, but the one we're covering this week is Jainaishot's legend list, which packs quite a punch. You have a lot of strong classic cards mixed in with some really nice meta additions. Most people know how the core of this one works, so instead of spending time on that, we're going to look at some of the important fringe cards today.
Mistress of Mixtures/Earthen Ring Farseer
As always, in order to make a good Handlock deck you need to have healing. While the post-nerf meta is still taking time to shape up, there is no doubt that fast decks are still around (and they will always be around). That, mixed with your constant life-tapping, can cause some problems if you don't have the right tools. To make up for that, this list packs two strong healing minions. Mistress of Mixturesis a fantastic card here, even without any healing gimmicks like Happy Ghoul. She provides a strong opening body that also gives you ways to make up for any early taps. Just note that she is much more important for her board presence than for her healing. While you may want to preserve her to get extra value from the deathrattle, trading should always be your first priority.
The other part of this package is the classic tech choice of Earthen Ring Farseer. While there are several options for this slot, nothing does more for a deck like this one than the 3/3. There are several reasons for that, but the most important is because of your finisher. Bloodreaver Gul'danis one of the strongest death knights, and he is almost always going to wrap up a game once he comes down. Because of that, you really just need to survive long enough to reach him. There are going to be several ways to make that happen, but being able to get three health on your face basically offsets two taps. It also gives you a way to play something early on against an aggressive deck without giving up value. Farseer has a lot of versatility, and you just want as many ways to get to your end game as possible. This is one of the best.
We all know what Twilight Drakedoes. It's a big, dumb minion that comes down way too early and proceeds to eat your opponent alive. However, I bring it up because it has a very important role in the current meta: murdering Priests. Priest (as we will discuss below) is the most popular class at the moment (can't believe I'm saying that) and their finisher of Shadowreaper Anduin/Raza the Chainedcan kill you extremely quickly. To win that matchup you need to be able to put pressure on early. Twilight Drake is the perfect way to make that happen because all forms of Priest have almost no way to deal with it. Not only does the dragon dodge all of their removal, but it also rises above AOE and laughs at Dragonfire Potion. For those reasons, this card is more of a tech choice than anything else. You do not have any ways to abuse the 4/10 with Defender of Argusor Faceless Shambler, it's just a big body that Priest cannot touch. Always run it out against Anduin, but know that you do not need to rush it against faster or midrange decks. It may be your first instinct to put it down as soon as you can, but sometimes it is better to clear Rexxar's beasts or simply kill a Pirate.
Twisting Netheris the most important spell in any slow Warlock build. Not only does the eight mana card help you pull out of tight situations, but it can also work as a straight up finisher against many swarm decks. Being able to completely clear a board is always going to be a strong for a control deck. However, you also need to realize that every single person you play is going to know about nether. That means you are going to have to force your opponent to play into it. To do that, you simply need to set up a situation where either your opponent cannot get small boards to stick or their minions are cannot do enough damage to make you worry. Do not be afraid to use premium removal if your opponent is trying to run out just one or two threats. This may seem like a waste at times, but it's worth it if you're pushing your opponent closer to overextending.
The best use for this card is to set up Bloodreaver Gul'dan. As noted, the death knight is your primary win condition. However, you ideally want him to come down with as little resistance as possible. Getting a board of demons is extremely powerful, but it is game-winning when you get that board down against one or no minions. There are several ways to set up a full clear for your DK, but the best of them is going to be Twisting Nether. Nothing is quite as clean as the AOE, and it really helps you cave a path to victory. While you want to try to catch as many minions with the spell as you can, that can change when working towards your finisher. If you are playing towards a Bloodreaver that is going to bring back a sizeable board you should not be afraid to just pull the trigger on the spell, even only against a few bodies.
Medivh, the Guardian
The first of the two big finishers we are going to talk about, Medivh, the Guardianis an interesting card because he can be really good, or he can be really, really bad. If you play him with some strong spells in your hand he can take over the game. In fact, he is one of the best ways to beat control because he stretches their removal thin and allows you to pump out a ton of extra threats. However, if you are out of gas or if you are forced to play things like Defile, he just isn't going to do much. When thinking about when to set up the Atiesh you always need to look at the cost of spells in your hand and then plan out how you want to use them. This will help you envision what type of minions you may get, and it will also help you build a proper gameplan. For example, if you know you want to Twisting Nether, it is almost always going to be worth putting it off one turn to make sure you play the 7/7 wizard first.
With the Fiery War Axenerf, nearly no one is playing weapon removal. That works out great for you because it means the Atiesh is almost always going to stick. Once that happens, you can do some great things with Medivh. What makes this card interesting is that, while you do not need to get full value from it, you do want a big body over a small one. Playing it right before three two mana spells is largely a waste, but trying to save it only for big finishers may also come too late. It is fine to get medium value from the weapon. Something like Hellfireto get a four mana minion or a Siphon Soulto get a six mana body is a fine trade off. There are even going to be times where you just need to use a two mana spell to get a threat in play.
Yep, it's that time again. It's been a while since we've sat down and discussed Alexstrasza, but the 8/8 dragon is extremely interesting in this build because she is one of the only aggressive cards you have. When you first play this list, odds are you are going to have problems closing people out. This is going to be especially true against other control decks who can just clear your board multiple times. You play something, it dies. Then they play something, and it dies. Rinse and repeat. Alex is the way you get around such locks because she instantly puts your opponent on the back foot and places you in control of the pacing. If you ever feel like you are running out of threats, or if you think your opponent can outlast you, you need to hit them with the dragon as soon as you possibly can.
The tricky thing about playing Alexstraszais making the read about where her ability need to be used. This is always her dilemma, but it is much more difficult in this deck. That is because, as you need to use her as an aggressive tool in many matchups, you want to pull the trigger much earlier than you would in decks like Freeze Mage. However, if you do that and make the wrong read you can leave yourself open to burst or finishing damage. The overall rule is to only use her on yourself if you think you cannot race your opponent, or if your opponent has the chance to stack up a ton of damage that you are going to need to recover from. Otherwise, if you think she will put you ahead right away, you want to drop her down once you hit nine.
These are the four decks I've seen the most post-nerf.
The nerfs took down Druid, but they did very little to Priest. The Kazakus build is as strong as ever, and it is going to be one of the trickiest matchups out there. This game is interesting because, while you and your opponent are both control decks, you have a lot of more board presence than they do. Priest is always going to play the same way. They are a combo-oriented decks that wants to kill minions and clear the board until they reach their finishing combo. While that is strong, it also means they are quite one dimensional. All you have to do it tap as much as possible and try to get to Bloodreaver Gul'danas soon as you can. If you can stay ahead of your opponent's burn or keep two big threats on the board you should be able to take this one. Run out your four attack minions whenever you see them and always play around Dragonfire Potion(which is the only way Priest can take down things like Despicable Dreadlord).
The way you pace this game is going to depend on how it plays out. If you get an early and control the board with hard-to -kill 4 attack minions, you should push damage and keep constant pressure on your opponent's face. Do not be afraid to play the role of midrange if your opponent gives it to you. However, if you get a slow draw, of if your opponent manages to stabilize, you need to switch to full control and go all-in on the healing plan. Never assume you know how damage Priest can do with their hero power (a lot of their cards give them more cards). Always air on the side of caution and save all of your healing for the final turns. Also, do what you can to stack up pressure. Even one 6/6 can force Priest to use burn on the board, which then gives you more time to stabilize.
Easily one of the coolest decks around, Tempo Rogue is an awesome midrange build that sits on top of a wide range of rarely-seen cards. The deck is an aggressively-slanted midrange build that uses strong board presence to push damage out of nowhere. For that reason, this one is all about burst. Tempo Rogue has a strong core but an extremely fragile shell. That means, while they can finish games in a hurry, if you ever manage to fight or stabilize against their assault they are going to wither. You have a lot of ways to control the board, which generally is going to put your opponent into a rough position. That is then going to force them to try to put you into burst range as much as possible. Once Rogue loses the board all they have left is their damage. Leeroy Jenkinsis as good as ever in the list, which means you need to be careful with your health. Clear aggressively, and if you start to dip you should heal your face and resist tapping. You cannot lose once you turn into Bloodreaver Gul'dan, but getting to that point is not easy. Always calculate your opponent's damage potential, including cards like Cold Bloodand Shadowstep.
The last true aggressive deck around right now (though Token Shaman and Pirate Warrior both seem decent play) Aggro Druid is going to be an extremely tight matchup. While you are favored overall, you need to be careful about taking too many hits. Not only can a few buffs push your opponent's minions out of AOE range, but Savage Roaris as dangerous as ever (especially with your limited taunts). This matchup is all about the AOE. Your opponent is going to play minions, you are going to clear, they are going to play more minions, you are going to clear again. Aggro Druid can do a lot with a little, and you should not worry about how many threats you are getting rid of. This is not a value game where you try to carefully measure out each spell. Rather, you just need to make sure your opponent cannot build up a board. The only spell you want to save is Siphon Soulfor Bittertide Hydra. The 8/8 is very popular and it will take you down if you aren't ready.
Do not depend on Doomsayerin this matchup. The 0/7 can be extremely good early on, but most Aggro Druids have adapted to running silence or Crazed Alchemist. That makes the two drop much less likely to hit than it once did. If you go all in on the card just to have it nullified you are going to have a bad time. Rather, try to run it out right after your use AOE. That will not only keep you ahead, but it also helps you control priority. All that matters in this game is getting to the top end of your curve. All of your big threats are going to be nightmares for Druid, so do not be afraid to heal just to buy more time. Also, always kill Crypt Lords on sight. The three drop may not be too big a deal at first, but Crazed Alchemistcan turn it into a death machine out of nowhere.
Another tight match, Midrange Hunter is a deck that continues to climb in popularity. This game is going to be about resisting damage and constantly (and I mean constantly) clearing the board. Hunter is a class that makes a living off of odd draws, and all it takes is one weak play for them to completely take over a game. Never get comfortable or assume you've won. In that vein, a lone Doomsayeris one of the best tools you have. You want to get to the top of your curve, and the two drop is a great way to do that. Try your best to play the 0/7 against no minions or after a clear. That not only keeps you in priority, but it will force your opponent to hold their cards. That then ruins their curve and draws them into a game they don't want to play.
The golden rule against Hunter is that if you ever get to your finishers you should be able to win this game. Hunter is a fast deck that packs a lot of burst, but they are not going to be able to wear you down once you Alexstraszaout of burst range or start gaining three life a turn. In fact, playing Bloodreaver Gul'danagainst a weak board is almost always going to get an instant concession. When it comes to living you always need to keep an eye on your opponent's damage potential. Without taunts, you are always going to be susceptible to charge (Tundra Rhino) and Eaglehorn Bow. Not only that, but the ol' double Kill Command/hero power can take you down out of nowhere. Always prioritize your healing and do not be afraid to stop lifetapping if your health starts to really dip down.
The mulligan with this deck is going to be pretty aggressive. You are a deck that wants to Lifetap, but you need to get a handle on the board first. Mistress of Mixtures, Voidwalker, Doomsayerare the three cards you want to look for in every game. Mortal Coil, Defileand Drain Soulare all great against aggro, and you should hold onto Bloodmage Thalnoswith any cheap spell. Earthen Ring Farseeris solid against any aggro deck, and Hellfireshould always be kept against aggro or swarm lists when you have a good opening curve. Finally, you should always keep Twilight Drakewhen you can curve into it or when you're facing Priest.
Always listen to the call of the void. That's my advice for this week, and I'm sticking to it. The pacing of slower Control Warlock decks has always been enjoyable to me, and that goes even more in a meta where they are strong. There are some gaps with these type of builds, but this list fixes those quite well. You have tools for every single matchup, as well as one of the best finishers around. I really don't see a better combination. Until next week, may you always Lifetap into a perfect answer.