Today we share with you one of the strongest Hearthstone decks you can play in Standard right now: Zoo Warlock. With me today is Norwis135. Norwis has achieved rank 1 Legend on the Europe server and held it for over a week now, and he is here to teach you how to play the deck. Let’s get into it!
(Scroll to the bottom to see an image of the deck.)
The strategy Zoo Warlock uses to win is to gain control early with the large amount of 1-mana cards in the deck. Combining Prince Keleseth and the heal options with Happy Ghoul makes this strategy hard for many decks to compete with. A new addition to the deck this expansion that got the deck to a whole new level is Soul Infusion. Landing this buff on a Saronite Chain Gang or Doubling Imp is often game-deciding.
One of the main mistakes Norwis mentioned was that people overextend a lot onto the board. It’s often best to limit your board to three larger minions to play around Mind Control Tech or other problems such as Hellfire, Defile, or Spreading Plague. Recognising what problems your opponent can cause for you is one of the most important things to learn when playing this deck.
1. You always keep Flame Imp, Kobold Librarian, and Keleseth in your starting hand. Voidwalker is generally a keep as well, but you can get rid of it if your hand is already good enough. Soul Infusion is a card that you want to decide on in a similar way. If you already have something different to do for Turn 1, you can keep Soul Infusion. Without a 1-mana card, Norwis tends to get rid of it since the start of Zoo Warlock is so important.
2. You can also keep card combinations. You can keep Happy Ghoul if you have a way to damage your hero (e.g. Kobold Librarian) and a way to heal, such as with Fungal Enchanter or Voodoo Doctor.
You can keep Voodoo Doctor if you have at least 1 Happy Ghoul, and then you can also keep Lightwarden. The same goes for Fungal Enchanter. Only keep it if you have a Happy Ghoul in your hand; then also keep Lightwarden.
For Lifedrinker, since it doesn’t impact the game until a turn later, don’t keep it unless you have the option for two Happy Ghouls and no other heal card is in your hand.
Keeping only Happy Ghoul and Lightwarden without a way to heal your hero is often a mistake. There is a good chance you don’t get any use out of these cards in the early turns, which isn’t something Zoo can afford.
3. Always keep Soul Infusion if either Saronite Chain Gang or Doubling Imp is the most left card in your hand. For those that don’t know, Soul Infusion buffs the most left card in your hand by +2/+2; finding this combination together can have a huge impact on the game. The only exception to this is when you have Saronite Chain Gang and Doubling Imp with the Soul Infusion, and the other card in your hand is some type of cheap card such as Happy Ghoul or a 1-Mana card.
All of the mulligan tips below are on top of the basic mulligan strategy.
Most Rogues are Odd-Rogues currently, as it is by far better than the other Rogue decks possible right now. It is only contested by Quest Rogue, which has a notably bad match-up against Zoo and as such is less important to mulligan for. Against Odd-Rogue, any Odd-Health minions are very useful due to how they interact with Odd-Rogue’s weapon. Voidwalker is the best card in the match-up. Soulfire is very effective as well due to its ability to kill the Rogue’s Hench Clan-Thug, SI:7 Agent, and Vicious Fledgling.
Bloodknight is another good card to keep since most Odd-Rogues currently play two powerful minions with Divine Shield. Argent Squire and Giggling Inventor are both great targets for the Blood Knight’s effect.
Most hunters currently are the Deathrattle build. Against them it’s great to keep Spellbreaker. Other options are keeping Bloodknight to counter Giggling Inventor or Void Ripper to counter the Witchwood Grizzly. Once again, only keep these if you already have access to a good turn 1 play.
Against Shaman Void Ripper is your friend. It counters the Hero Power of Shaman, Mana Tide Totem, and helps you trade through a lot of stuff. If you know your opponent is Shudderwock Shaman, a card you’ll want to keep is Fungalmancer. It helps a lot to survive longer against Lightning Storm.
Against Odd Paladin it’s very important to keep Blood Knight. This card can singlehandedly win you the match-up. Keep it no matter what.
For the mirror it’s often good to keep one Soulfire. Doubling Imp and Saronite Chain Gang also go up a lot in power. As long as you have a good starting hand, it’s helpful to keep one or both of these as well.
If you know your opponent is a type of Control Warlock you’ll want to keep Spellbreaker and Void ripper as well. However, this isn’t something you want to do unless you have the information that they are that archetype.
In Norwis’s current build, he hasn’t included Doubling Imp, though that is a card included in most other lists. Norwis doesn’t like filling up his board too much. In the match-ups he has been facing, he has preferred to have access to different tools since he has chosen to often limit his board to three minions, as previously mentioned.
The version he’s currently playing after the first couple of times of reaching rank 1 Legend changes the Void Ripper to be two copies of Blood Knight. The reason for this is because he hasn’t met any decks playing Doomsayer. Control Mage and Even Warlock were quite rare at the time he was competing for rank 1 Legend.
The reason Norwis only plays one copy of Doomguard as finisher is because of the many negative interactions Doomguard has with the other cards in the deck. Sometimes Doomguard is just what is needed as a pressure tool, which is why he prefers Doomguard over Leeroy.
Coin Keleseth on 1 is almost always the correct play. The only exception to this is when you have two Flame Imps in hand or Flame Imp, Voodoo Doctor, and Happy Ghoul.
It’s important to play discard effect cards if you have an empty hand if you still have discard cards in deck. Because it’s really bad if you have two discard effect cards in hand. For example, you want to play Soulfire and then Lifetap, instead of Lifetapping and risking drawing a card you can’t play with the Soulfire in hand.
A mistake I see many Zoo players make is that they play Doomguard too early and discard resources they need. Try to Lifetap into more resources and play the Doomguard when your hand is empty instead to put more pressure on your opponent.
Zoo is a deck that is easy to play and hard to master. Zoo Warlock is an incredible deck that is very fun to learn and play. We believe you too can reach the high Legend ranks once you understand the deck. We hope this guide has helped you improve at the deck and helps you reach the ranks you want to reach.
If you want to see more interesting decks from Norwis, follow him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Norwis135
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I’m Arend Zijdenbos, from the Netherlands. Gamer for as long as I can remember. My current focus is further improving at esports journalism. Currently, I write for Daily Esports and PCInvasion. For more of me, find me on twitter @Azijdenbos.