15 July 2014 - 22:00

Zoom Zoom Zoo Warlock - The Many Faces of Zoo

Zoo decks have been dancing their way to Legend since Beat. We will look at the way Zoo has evolved and iterated on by the likes of Vijce and Gaara!
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Like the famous Brasilian song, Zoo Warlock decks have been dancing their way to Legend for a long time. When people hear the word 'Zoo', mixed feelings arise in them - ranging from pure hatred to understanding. Matter of fact, the Zoo archetype is one of the most loved/hated decks in Hearthstone.

Its success is due to three main reasons:

  1. It's very cheap to craft, hence all the players who don't want to spend money on the game can still successfully climb the ladder.
  2. It's pretty straightforward: someone would say that it's easy to play, some other would call it a deck for brainless people. Personally, I think that even though its tactics are pretty straightforward, it still requires strategy and thinking in order to play it successfully.
  3. It's one of the most consistent decks in the game.

Flame Imp

These are the reasons why the deck has been played for such a long time, and it's still one of the most used decks in Hearthstone.

Some History

"For those of you not in the know, this deck was originally created by Reynad in a bid to create a very effective budget deck while climbing the Asia server. It is notable for making use of cards that many have considered useless, namely the good old Shieldbearerand the ever better and slightly younger Doomguard. Most cards have an immediate impact when played and are relatively low-cost, which allow the player to stay relevant even in the late game by using the Warlock’s Life Tap ability and essentially playing two cards every turn.

Needless to say, early board control is vital. (So much so that, despite the deceptive first impressions, this is actually a control deck, not an aggro one.) It is also worth noting that the deck contains almost no spells."  - from YelloRambo's "Flavors of Zoo"

Why is it called 'Zoo'?

It's a term taken from Magic: the Gathering, explained below:

"Traditionally, Zoo Warlock is a hyper-aggressive build that abuses the potential of under costed, self-buffing weenies alongside burn and utility. Naya Zoo (the core of a Zoo build) is among the fastest aggro archetypes in the Modern format, and it almost certainly has the biggest toolbox. Thanks to the Ravnica Shocklands and Zendikar enemy Fetches, nothing substantial is lost from Legacy Zoo builds. One of the key components to Zoo's success is the general lack of a single, game-breaking card to draw hate, but rather a team of incredibly efficient creatures that maintain board advantage. With Zoo, efficiency is the name of the game" - from MTG Salvation Article

Deck Lists

There have been dozens of Zoo Warlock decks going around since the archetype won its success: everyone tried to build their personal deck, tinkering with different versions of it. Some decks have been more focused on attacking, some have been more defensive, some others tried to focus more on board control. My plan is that of giving you a wide array of decks to look at, so that you can choose the one that more fits your play style, or the one that you think is more fit for the current metagame.

YelloRambo already posted a guide on Zoo Warlock on June 22, presenting 6 different decks and describing their features, or "flavors," as he calls them.

I am not going to discuss the same decks in this guide, since I don't want to be redundant, but if you guys want to check them out, you will find them very interesting, although maybe a little outdated for the current meta. As for the decks I am about to review, I am going to show you the ones that are currently being played by most people, or by the most famous streamers. Here we go!

Blood Knight

Trump's Divine Zoo

Deck List

Everybody knows Trump, he is one of the best Hearthstone players in the world, and he decided to climb the ladder in Season 4 with his "Divine Zoo" deck. Since the ladder is swarmed with Zoo Warlock decks at lower levels, Trump has come up with a build that is able to handle well both control decks and aggro decks, taking advantage of the Blood Knight's ability to absorb shields and buff himself. I believe this is a great deck to use at lower ranks. When you find yourself at higher ranks, though, and encounter fewer and fewer mirror decks, it might be worth dropping one or both Blood Knights for something more versatile, such as Young Priestess.  Still, I think this is a very solid build, definitely worth trying.

Reynad's July Zoo

Deck List

This is the Zoo Warlock deck with which Reynad decided to climb the ladder in Season 4.  The difference with Reynad's Vanilla build is that he swapped 2x Mortal Coiland 2x Argent Commanderin favor of 2x Abusive Sergeantand 2x Dark Iron Dwarf. The dwarves are certainly cheaper than the argent commanders, the abusive sergeants are great to push more damage through, and less mortal coils in your hand means less possible dead cards in your hand. This deck is certainly more consistent than the vanilla version and performs incredibly well.

Amani Berserker

Noodle's Zoo

Deck List

With this build, Noodles2556 worked his way to legend. His deck is obviously a variation of Reynad's: what he did was drop 2x Scarlet Crusaderin favor of 2x Amani Berserker. Amani Berserker is a great card, since it survives most AoE spells and draws removal on him. For 2 mana, he is a threat that can't be ignored. Noodles is not so sure about this card, though, as he himself states: "This is probably the weakest slot in the deck. The lack of impact and initial power of the card makes it often feel lackluster, but the fact that it is in the deck means that I still think it's the best option for the slot currently. A lot of its strength is in the treat it has to your opponent. It often draws decent removal spells just because of the threat of enrage, and it can punish some of the weaker AoE spells quite heavily."

Vijce's Murlock Deck

Deck List

It has been a while since the last Murlocs deck. These filthy creatures used to swarm the game with their gurgling sounds, but they had been defeated by the more consistent Reynad's Zoo. The problem with Murlocs was that they had very little health, thus were easy to remove. Nevertheless, Vijce has found a way to make them work in the current meta, by using the most efficient Murlocs along with some classic zoo minions. He got to legend with this build and I saw several players use his deck on the ladder. Compared to other aggro warlock decks, this definitely needs more practice and skill in order to be played correctly: a poor choice can easily get all your Murlocs killed. If you play it right, though, it can deal a lot of damage in just a few turns.

Gaara's 'Operatio Paperatio'

Deck List

Gaara chose to run a deck that still makes good use of divine shields, but which doesn't rely on the Blood Knight to push the damage through. The difference between this deck and others' zoo warlock decks is the use of Faerie Dragon, a minion that hasn't seen much play so far. The great thing about Faerie Dragon is that it's really hard to remove and it can deal 3 damage every turn. It is particularly effective when you coin into it against heroes who don't have weapons at their disposal. The downside of this card is that it dies easily from mass removals, but it can still be buffed by either Shattered Sun Clericor Defender of Argus. I think this deck is pretty solid, although I am not a huge fan of Shieldbearer.

Arcane Golem

Gaara's Rushlock

Deck List

I tuned on Gaara's TwitchTV last night when I saw him playing this particular deck. I would say it is kind of experimental, although I have seen similar deck lists in the past. Let's say that while the Zoo Warlock archetype is generally focused on board control, this kind of deck uses the same minions/tactics as the renown "Shockadin," aiming for the face, in order to burn your opponent down in just a few turns. It is a very interesting build, although I dislike decks that go berserker. Nevertheless, it might be the deck some players are looking forward to.

My Zoo Warlock Build

I personally use a build that, in my opinion, is very consistent. I love Faerie Dragon, but I dislike Shieldbearer, Argent Commanderand Mortal Coil. Shieldbearer is very good to protect key minions, but it's very slow and it deals low to no damage at all; Argent Commander is a great card, but its mana cost is high in a fast deck like this one; Mortal Coil is great, but it can often be a dead card in your hand and, since the purpose of Zoo decks is maintain efficiency and consistency, I don't want dead cards in my hand. I hope you guys like my build, and if you have any suggestions, feel free to comment in the section below!

How To Play Zoo

TrainerDusk is starting an excellent series on playing the Zoo Warlock and Noodle has a Zoo guide as well, so be sure to check them both out!

Conclusion

In this guide, I tried to discuss the Zoo archetype and to show the most popular decks at the moment, and even presented a couple of experimental builds. I hope you can find the one that best suits your play style! I also hope you found this guide interesting and, if you didn't, you're free to tell me what else you would like to see in my article.

If you have any doubts or concerns, you can ask me anytime here in the comments section!  My Battletag is Giordy#2566.

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