Hello friends, I’m Shudogin! I would like to share with you guys a deck that I found to be a refreshing take on the traditional Handlock. As Wilfred Fizzlebang demonstrated when summoning [card]lord-jaraxxus[/card] during the Trial of the Crusader in World of Warcraft, it is important to keep your demons in check. To assert dominance over Lord Jaraxxus, it is important to occasionally leave him out of Handlock decks.
Kidding aside, one of the most important attributes in a deck is tempo. Several of Handlock’s traditional cards offer very little positive tempo. By replacing these slow cards with more aggressive cards, I found that Handlock becomes even more dangerous. This deck was inspired by Lifecoach’s greedy handlock, with several modifications to fit the current meta. This deck focuses on dropping many large threats faster than our opponent can deal with them. With over 40 games played with this deck in legend last season, I can without a doubt say that these changes increase Handlock’s success against many of the other popular decks.
[cardinsert card=”lord-jaraxxus” float=”left”]
[toc]Overview[/toc]This tempo-oriented Handlock is designed to overwhelm our opponent with a barrage of minions in the mid-game. Beginning on turn 4, this deck will generally have a threat to play. It is also important to note that this deck includes multiple ways to regain health. This is important because of this deck’s aggressive nature, it is inevitable that we will end up at low health. Finally, because this Handlock does not contain several traditional removal options, it is important to end games by the early game late phrase.
Handlock is widely considered one of the strongest control decks in the game, and has one of the highest skill caps. One of the unique aspects of Handlock is that it only gets stronger the closer it is to 0 health. In light of this, I will extensively cover several of the unique card choices found in this deck and how to deal with difficult match ups.
[toc]Card Choices[/toc]With this deck, we aim to play large threats from turn 4 onward. In order to deal with aggressive decks, we also include a few early game, anti-aggro minions to survive until we have enough mana to AoE clear the board.
- [card]mortal-coil[/card] provides card cycle, and a bit of extra reach. This card provides amazing value in a deck that relies on drawing into win conditions. The one damage can be incredibly beneficial against both aggressive and control decks. Because it is self-replacing, it will not hinder our hand size.
- [card]zombie-chow[/card] is one of the newest “standard” cards in Handlock. Zombie Chow is both incredibly useful at stalling aggressive decks, and giving us a cheap [card]shadowflame[/card] target. In regard to Zombie Chow’s deathrattle, by the time Handlock is ready to win, dealing an extra 5 damage to the enemy hero is not a problem.
- [card]ancient-watcher[/card] is another traditional card in Handlock’s lineup. The Ancient Watcher can be used both offensively and defensively, when used in combination with [card]ironbeak-owl[/card] or [card]sunfury-protector[/card]. Additionally, Ancient Watcher provides possibly the most valuable [card]shadowflame[/card] target in the game.
- [card]ironbeak-owl[/card] provides some of the best utility in-game. At 2 mana, this silence is extremely affordable, and allows us to deal with many of the prevalent anti-AoE deathrattle cards. Additionally, the Ironbeak Owl can be used offensively to activate our Ancient Watcher, giving us a more aggressive board presence against other slow control decks.
- [card]sunfury-protector[/card] is one of the fundamental Handlock cards. Because Handlock likes to stay one hit away from 0 health, our opponents are sometimes tempted to kill us. Sunfury Protector prevents this tragedy by being a cheap activator for our huge giants and drakes.
- [card]big-game-hunter[/card] is one of the few hard removal options that swings tempo in our favor. Because Big Game Hunter costs a very reasonable 3 mana, we rely on it as our primary means of removal in this deck. With the current prevalence of cards like [card]dr-boom[/card] and [card]ragnaros-the-firelord[/card], Big Game Hunter usually has a target.
- [card]earthen-ring-farseer[/card] and [card]antique-healbot[/card] provide bursts of controlled healing in this deck. The Farseer[cardinsert card=”antique-healbot” float=”right”] allows us to choose which target is healed, giving us flexibility. The Healbot proves crucial to staying alive in many matchups, as well as allowing us to play our [card]molten-giant[/card] without permanently losing health.
- [card]hellfire[/card] is a great card against any aggressive deck. Hellfire gives us a bit of clutch AoE when we have no target on the board for [card]shadowflame[/card], as is often the case when facing Zoolocks and Hunters.
- [card]shadowflame[/card] is one of Handlock’s best recovery tools. Not only is Shadowflame one of the strongest AoE spells in the game, but the damage it deals is entirely decided by us. This deck includes many great Shadowflame targets, allowing us to clear the board against almost any minion. Shadowflame is a must-play card in any Handlock deck.
- [card]twilight-drake[/card] and [card]mountain-giant[/card] are almost always good turn 4 plays. These cards set the tempo for the rest of the game, with us continually dropping huge threats, and our opponent scrambling to remove them. Both of these cards are excellent value, and we can decide which one to drop on turn 4 based upon our opponent’s deck.
- [card]loatheb[/card] is one of the best anti-clear mechanisms in the game. By essentially stalling the board state for a turn, Loatheb allows us to build our board uninterrupted. Another important use of Loatheb, is that we force our opponent to play minions instead of spells. By forcing minions to be played, we can use Loatheb to make our opponent to overextend into our AoE removal. The manipulation Loatheb allows us is game changing.
- [card]sludge-belcher[/card] provides even more stabilization to this deck. Belcher shines in matchups versus aggressive decks, where we need to stabilize our health shortly into the game. Additionally, because Belcher is a 5 drop, we can often play another card along with Belcher, giving us more space to draw in our hand.
[cardinsert card=”sylvanas-windrunner” float=”left”]
- [card]sylvanas-windrunner[/card] is another of our removal mechanisms. Sylvanas forces good trades in both control and aggressive matchups. Often our opponent is forced to use multiple cards to effectively remove Sylvanas from the board. Sylvanas can also be combined with [card]shadowflame[/card] to deliver a devastating board clear, and then stealing any minion that survives.
- I believe that [card]dr-boom[/card] is possibly the single strongest card released in Goblins versus Gnomes. There are few decks that cannot utilize the power that this robust 7/7 offers. In this particular Handlock deck, Dr. Boom can be used to force removal from our opponent, as well as putting a huge threat on the board. If our opponent uses a Big Game Hunter on Dr. Boom, it essentially clears the way for more devastating giants to be played.
[toc]Playing this Deck[/toc]Handlock is one of the most versatile decks in the game. When playing this incarnation of Handlock, our primary goal is to start dropping our large threats as soon as possible. This boils down to 3 stages in our deck.
- Gathering: during this stage of the game, we want to build our hand up as much as possible. This is done through conserving cards, and liberally using Life Tap. During this stage, losing health is actually an advantage for us.
- Stabilizing: during this stage of the game, we want to stop the incoming damage. This stage is usually reached when we are at 14-22 health. It is here that we use [card]shadow-flame[/card] to remove our opponent’s threats, and begin to play our heavy hitting cards.
- Recovery: during this stage of the game, we want to overrun our opponent while avoiding being killed by a combo ourselves. This is most pronounced when we begin to play [card]molten-giant[/card], due to our low health. In this stage, we want to execute our win conditions. It is here that we begin to use our card advantage to play multiple threats in one turn.
These three stages present themselves in different ways in each matchup. It is important to recognize when our opponent will have lethal, and what we can do to prevent them from killing us. I will cover this more in-depth in the class specific section.
[cardinsert card=”hellfire” float=”left”][toc]Class Specific Matchups[/toc]Playing this deck to its full potential relies on playing around our opponent. An important part to successfully playing Handlock is identifying what our opponent is playing, and adjusting our basic 3 stages to suit our opponent.
Zoolock, the other popular Warlock deck that is being played extensively on the ladder. The good news is, Handlock does well versus zoo-style aggression. Mulligan for:
- [card]hellfire[/card] or [card]shadowflame[/card]
When playing against Zoo, it is important to stabilize the board early. If we manage to survive until we can use Hellfire or Shadowflame to clear the board, the rest of the match falls into place. Mortal Coil is amazing in this match, allowing us to cycle our deck without relying on Life Tap. Ancient Watcher does well versus [card]undertaker[/card], whether being activated by an Owl or a Protector.
This match favors Handlock.
Hunter is Handlock’s most challenging matchup. Unlike Zoolock which largely relies on minions for damage, Hunter has several ways to deal with our taunts. Mulligan for:
Because of Hunter’s incredible burst damage, it is important that we do not over Life Tap early in the game. Zombie Chow, Ancient Watcher, and Mortal Coil are all useful answers to Hunter’s early aggression. Molten Giant gains particular value in a Hunter match up, because Hunter has few reliable ways to deal with Giants. It is important to note that [card]freezing-trap[/card] can be used to our advantage with Sunfury Protector and Antique Healbot.
This match up largely comes down to mulligans, and correctly playing around Freezing Trap as the game progresses.
[cardinsert card=”mountain-giant” float=”right”]
Mech Mage is an aggressive match up that favors Handlock. Mech decks are typically vulnerable to AoE, and Handlock brings a variety of AoE to the table. Similar to the Zoolock match up, once we initially clear the board through [card]hellfire[/card] or [card]shadowflame[/card], Mech Mage has few answers. Mulligan for:
- [card]hellfire[/card] or [card]shadowflame[/card]
Because many Mech Mages do not utilize removal cards like [card]polymorph[/card], our large taunts typically stick to the board well. Using Hellfire or Shadowflame on turn 4 to clear the board very often wins us this match.
Control Warrior is one of this Handlock deck’s strongest matchups. As long as we do not overextend, Control Warrior simply does not have a way to deal with the constant barrage of threats we play. Mulligan for:
When playing versus a Control Warrior, we simply abuse our Life Tap to be gain a huge card and tempo advantage. To this end, it is perfectly acceptable to silence [card]acolyte-of-pain[/card] with our Ironbeak Owl. The most difficult part of this matchup, is not overextending before [card]brawl[/card] is played. Once Brawl has been played, Warrior has very little means of dealing with multiple threats.
[cardinsert card=”zombie-chow” float=”right”]
Priest is traditionally Handlock’s best match up. This is in part because Priest does not have an easy way to deal with creatures that have 4 attack, such as Twilight Drake, and in part because Priest lends itself to being easily cleared with [card]shadowflame[/card]. Goblins versus Gnomes did add several tools to Priest’s arsenal, such as [card]lightbomb[/card], and [card]shrinkmeister[/card], but as long as we recognize these threats, Priest remains an easy win. Mulligan for:
When playing against Priest, it is important to not get too greedy. It is particularly important to aggressively Life Tap in this match, while staying out of range of Priest’s combo. [card]lightbomb[/card] is indeed a punishing card if we have more than one giant on the board. Beyond Lightbomb, we have answers for any threat Priest plays. As long as we remove the Priest’s [card]auchenai-soulpriest[/card], this should be an easy match.
This Handlock incarnation tends to win Mirror matches as long as we do not overextend into [card]shadowflame[/card] range. When playing versus another Handlock, it is important to push the advantage early in the game. Because most other Handlocks will be utilizing [card]lord-jaraxxus[/card], it is important that we win before they gain a stream of [card]infernal[/card]. Mulligan for:
Because we use 2 Big Game Hunters, we are prepared to deal with most threats early in the mirror match. This match often comes down to getting a valuable [card]shadowflame[/card]. Whether combined with [card]sylvanas-windrunner[/card] or [card]molten-giant[/card], Shadow Flame wins or loses this matchup.
[toc]Conclusion[/toc]This deck was a ton of fun to play. This incarnation of Handlock does particularly well in environments that feature both aggressive and control matchups, such as the current ladder. I found that due to the aggressive nature of this deck, control matches were easier to win, and aggressive matches did not become any harder to win. I greatly appreciate any questions, feedback, or suggestions, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com, or comment below! If you enjoyed my guide, consider giving it a upvote!