I’m TaftsBathtub and I recently hit rank 16 legend on NA with a deck that I feel is vastly underrepresented for how strong it is in the meta: Combolock. Always an overlooked contender, Combolock is especially powerful now because it beats both the meta and the counter-meta. By that I mean that it beats what is widely considered to be the best deck in the format, Patron Warrior, while also beating Patron’s natural counters, Handlock and Control Warrior. None of its other matchups are terrible, and it is at least 50/50 against the increasingly popular Hybrid Hunter.
For those who don’t know, the main idea of Combolock is to do 24 damage from an empty board with [card]arcane-golem[/card], two [card]power-overwhelming[/card]s, and [card]faceless-manipulator[/card], which costs 10 mana. The deck is mainly based off of Zalae’s Combolock from pre-BRM, who in turn based his list off of Darkwonyx’s Combolock. With BRM I was able to add in [card]emperor-thaurissan[/card] and [card]imp-gang-boss[/card]. Thaurissan is just all around great in combo decks and Imp Gang Boss provides a way to cover the early game minimalistically.
If you prefer to get your information in video form, feel free to check out my deck guide video, where I discuss matchups and card choices.
The general strategy of this deck is to leverage your hero power to assemble the combo, while using the suite of early game minions and spells to stay alive and do the small amount of chip damage needed for combo to be lethal. If you are unable to do any chip damage or assemble the full combo by turn 9, [card]alexstrasza[/card] can quickly put you into position to win the next turn. Against aggro we have over 25 points of healing in our deck and against control we have two [card]siphon-soul[/card]s and plenty of burst damage to punish slow play.
- Mortal coil is great against aggro to kill Leper Gnomes or Abusive Sergeants without being a liability in the late game because it cycles.
- This is part of the combo. Sometimes you can use Power Overwhelming on one of your [card]imp[/card] tokens to maintain board control, but you will usually want to save both POs for the full combo.
- Darkbomb is cheap and efficient removal that can also top off your combo for a little extra face damage if you get a good [card]emperor-thaurissan[/card] turn.
- We have a lot of spells that benefit from spell damage. Imp-losion even double dips by giving you an extra Imp along with the extra damage. Even if we don’t get any good spell damage benefits, Thalnos’ deathrattle helps us dig through our deck for the combo faster.
- Most control decks these days run at least one silence card, and we are no exception. [card]savannah-highmane[/card], [card]twilight-drake[/card], and [card]sylvanas-windrunner[/card] are all popular cards in the meta that almost demand silence.
- If I had to cut a card from this deck, this would be the first to go. Mistress really shines against aggressive Hunters, but in many other matchups her impact is minimal. Consider replacing her with a [card]zombie-chow[/card] if you are facing more Zoo than Face Hunter.
- Arcane Golem is the linchpin of our combo. I very rarely use it outside of the combo.
- Big Game Hunter is a necessity in a meta filled with [card]dr-boom[/card]s and Handlocks.
- Farseer provides a little extra heal and some board presence in the early game.
- Imp Gang Boss is one of the best warlock class cards. It can single-handedly keep zoo and hunter from steamrolling you within the first several turns.
- Hellfire is the perfect board clear for the current meta. It cleanly kills [card]grim-patron[/card]s and a lot of the important mech cards like [card]mechwarper[/card] and [card]piloted-shredder[/card]
- Imp-losion develops your board at the same time as removing something from your opponent’s board, which is almost always a good thing. Warlocks do not have a “ping” (deal one damage) hero ability to help them control the board, so the Imps produced by Imp-losion can help fill that gap.
- We are almost always going to have a lot of cards in our hand with this type of deck, so Twilight drake is the 4-drop of choice.
- We’re going to be tapping a lot and often falling behind in the early game, so healing is essential to stabilize later in the game.
- The last part of our combo. Sometimes it’s the right call to faceless one of your opponent’s big threats or one of your own [card]sludge-belcher[/card]s, but for the most part you should be saving this card.
- Sludge Belcher is perhaps the best taunt minion in the game. Belcher is so sticky and annoying that the opponent will often be tempted to silence it, but then they clear the way for an uncontested [card]twilight-drake[/card]
- Siphon Soul is decent hard removal that also heals. We will often be playing without board control, so we need a high amount of removal to make sure we don’t lose to an unchecked [card]emperor-thaurissan[/card] or [card]archmage-antonidas[/card].
- Emperor Thaurissan is an amazing card for combo decks. You will often have a large hand when he comes down so this deck is positioned well to get maximum value from his effect. Whenever the cost of a combo piece gets reduced, your burst damage potential increases. This deck is no longer capped at 24 damage on turn 10. We can now theoretically do 24 damage the turn after playing Thaurissan, or we can combine our combo with Darkbombs and Hellfires for a full 30 damage OTK (one turn kill).
- Taunts are problematic for this deck because they prevent our combo from hitting face. Black Knight is a great answer, and is acceptable value even if you only manage to hit an [card]annoy-o-tron[/card]. Most decks can’t quite fit a Black Knight in, but since we draw so much with this deck we can afford a few extra situational cards.
- Alexstrasza is great because she can be a game-changer against both aggro and control. Against aggro you can use her on yourself to stabilize right when you are about to die. Against control you can get the opponent down to within range of a partial combo like Arcane Golem+Power Overwhelming+Faceless or Arcane Golem+2x Power Overwhelming + Dark Bomb for example.
All four legendaries in this deck have unique roles that can’t really be reproduced by cheaper cards. However, this deck is quite flexible and can survive several card replacements. Instead of trying to replace legendaries with similar cards, I recommend putting in one of the following strong utility cards: [card]zombie-chow[/card], 2nd [card]mistress-of-pain[/card], 2nd [card]ironbeak-owl[/card], [card]azure-drake[/card], [card]acidic-swamp-ooze[/card], 2nd [card]big-game-hunter[/card], [card]harrison-jones[/card] or [card]dr-boom[/card]. If the meta you’re facing is more aggro, go for the cheap cards like chow. If you’re facing more control, go with cards like Azure Drake or Big Game Hunter.
If you want a quick approximation of the matchups, below are the stats I collected while playing this deck at legend rank.
I’ve included videos of example games with post-commentary for some of the common matchups on ladder.
- Despite my record, druid is a hard matchup for this deck. Combolock is designed to play from behind for most of the game, but due to Druid’s combo we can’t afford to stay behind on board. You will have to do as much as you can to maintain board control, and if you are successful you should win eventually with or without drawing into your combo.
- We have massive amounts of healing to try to stave off Face Hunter, but it is still possible for them to overwhelm you. Against Hybrid and Midrange Hunter try to find ways to exploit their freezing trap for your own gain by returning [card]antique-healbot[/card], [card]earthen-ring-farseer[/card], [card]ironbeak-owl[/card], or even [card]arcane-golem[/card] to your hand.
- The good news is that Freeze Mage is a great matchup for this deck. We have a ton of healing, and Freeze Mage’s freeze spells are powerless to stop our charging combo. The bad news is that Mech Mage is a tough matchup. If we don’t draw the right answers by turn 3, Mech Mage can snowball beyond recovery.
- Paladin is a pretty even matchup. Try to hold one Hellfire in reserve to deal with a [card]muster-for-battle[/card] [card]quartermaster[/card] turn.
- I encountered exactly zero priests in my run to top 20, but I predict it to be a favorable matchup. Priest don’t usually put on much pressure due to their reactive nature, leaving you plenty of time to acquire your combo pieces.
- Rogue is a pretty good matchup. Oil Rogues aren’t built around doing more than 40 or so points of damage, so you can often win this matchup the same way Control Warrior does, by just out-healing their damage potential. Oil Rogue also runs few taunts and heals, so once you draw the combo and have the mana there will likely be nothing stopping you from lethal.
- Shaman is predominately Mech Shaman these days. This deck does slightly better against Mech Shaman than it does against Mech Mage, but it is still not a favorable matchup. Mech Shamans are typically slower than Mech Mages so our [card]siphon-soul[/card]s can get more value, and Mech Shamans don’t have [card]goblin-blastmage[/card] to counter our [card]imp-losion[/card]s.
- Handlock is one of this deck’s strongest matchups. We have lots of answers to their big minions, and we can burst them down without putting them within [card]molten-giant[/card] range.
- Zoo is a bad matchup. Like the mech decks, they can snowball out of control if we don’t find the right early game cards in the opening. Midrange Demonzoo is the most popular kind of Zoo right now, which is good for us because we can actually use Siphon Soul on significant minions like [card]sylvanas-windrunner[/card] or [card]malganis[/card].
- Patron Warrior is a great matchup almost entirely due to [card]hellfire[/card]. Patron Warrior’s gameplan is to devote resources into developing a huge board of [card]grim-patron[/card]s, which we can easily counter with a single Hellfire.
- Control Warrior seemed like a bad matchup to me at first since they can armor up so far past our combo range, but in my experience you can often win by grinding them out and having the last minion on board once the game hits fatigue.
Mulligans are the weakest area of my game personally, so feel free to decide on your own mulligan scheme, because it may well be better than mine.
[card]mortal-coil[/card]: A great keep against Hunter, Paladin, and Zoo. Otherwise debatable.
[card]power-overwhelming[/card]: While this card is integral to our overall strategy, we do not want it in our opening hand, we want ways to handle the early game. Always toss.
[card]darkbomb[/card]: A great keep against Zoo, Hunter, Mech Mage, Mech Shaman, and Paladin. OK against Druid and Rogue. Otherwise debatable.
[card]bloodmage-thalnos[/card]: An OK keep vs Hunter or if you also have mortal coil.
[card]ironbeak-owl[/card]: An OK keep vs. Hunter and Mech Mage to answer an early [card]mad-scientist[/card].
[card]mistress-of-pain[/card]: An excellent keep vs. aggro decks.
[card]arcane-golem[/card]: Again, a part of our combo that doesn’t belong in our opening hand.
[card]big-game-hunter[/card]: A good keep if you suspect your opponent is Handlock.
[card]earthen-ring-farseer[/card]: A good keep vs. aggro.
[card]imp-gang-boss[/card]: I always keep this card; there are almost no situations in which this is not a strong turn 3 play.
[card]hellfire[/card]: An OK keep against patron warrior to ensure you are ready for the turn where they fill the board with Patrons. Also great for clearing the board against Zoo, Paladin, and Mech decks, but I would hesitate to keep a reactive 4 mana card such as this without the coin.
[card]imp-losion[/card]: Another reactive 4 mana card. I prefer to only keep it if I have the coin against midrange and some aggro.
[card]twilight-drake[/card]: Always keep going second. Always keep vs. control.
[card]antique-healbot[/card]: Heals are important, but we’d rather have lower mana cards in our hand and draw Healbot later. Always toss.
[card]faceless-manipulator[/card]: A combo piece and an expensive one at that. Always toss.
[card]sludge-belcher[/card]: A higher cost card, but a good one to get out on turn 4. An OK keep going second against Druid or Warrior.
[card]siphon-soul[/card]: Too much mana and not proactive. Always toss.
[card]emperor-thaurissan[/card]: You could perhaps keep this vs. control, but he is just too much mana for my tastes. Always toss.
[card]the-black-knight[/card]: A very strong card vs. Druid. So much so that keeping it going second is justifiable.
[card]alexstrasza[/card]: We don’t want the highest cost card in our deck in our opening hand. Always toss.
Combolock is a great deck for countering a meta full of Patron Warriors and Handlocks. It’s rarely seen on ladder, so you can often win with the element of surprise. But even without the element of surprise, I believe that this deck is strong on its own merits, as it has tools for dealing with both aggro and control while quickly cycling through cards for consistency. If you have any questions or just want to talk about your experiences with the deck, feel free to leave a comment below.