Our Zoo Warlock deck list guide for the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion will teach you how to play this board control-centric Warlock list. This Zoo Warlock guide includes Mulligans, Gameplay Strategy, Card Substitutions, and Combos/Synergies!
Introduction to Warlock Zoo
Warlock Zoo is a deck with a long history in Hearthstone. In the past, the deck ran an extremely low curve, often topping out at 5 mana with Doomguard. At this time, Blood Imp, Young Priestess, and even Shieldbearer all found a home in this early game focused deck.
Even as the deck transitioned to Discard variants during One Night in Karazhan, the key strategy of the deck remained the same: trade minions efficiently, snowballing board presence into a victory.
More recently, the deck has taken the best part of every style it has taken in the past. We have an aggressive early game, powerful mid game, some Discard cards, and a great finisher in a form of Bloodreaver Gul'dan.
Update: Zoolock (March 2018 – Post Nerf)
Zoo was hit pretty hard by the nerfs, and it’s no longer a high tier deck. That said, it’s still solid, and a good pick if you want to play something aggressive.
Warlock Zoo Card Choices
- Flame Imp – A 1-mana 3/2 can often be the difference in getting ahead on board and playing from behind.
- Kobold Librarian – With many low-cost minions, Warlock Zoo tends to run out of cards very quickly. Librarian draws a card and develops a minion on board.
- Malchezaar's Imp – While less aggressive than its Flame companion, this Imp does offset some of the downside of Discarding cards with Soulfire or Doomguad.
- Soulfire – Four damage for 1 mana can make for a huge tempo swing. While losing a card from hand is less than ideal, Warlock has Life Tap to replenish quickly.
- Voidwalker – Voidwalker is another low-cost Demon that’s difficult to remove in the early game. Against Aggro, especially, this card offers a powerful turn 1 play.
- Darkshire Councilman – Councilman provides a stable body that slowly becomes a legitimate threat thanks to all the efficient minions in this list.
- Despicable Dreadlord – In the all-out war for board control in the early turns, opposing minions are frequently left damaged. On turn 5, Dreadlord can clean up any that were left on 1 health and swing the board back in your favor.
- Doomguard – Dumping two cards from hand never feels good. That said, playing a 5-mana 5/7 with Charge feels great!
- Bloodreaver Gul'dan – Zoo has, in the past, been a deck that lacked much in the way of sustain. Bloodreaver Gul’dan can give you some staying power to recover a lost board or finish a slower deck.
- Fire Fly – Fire Fly isn’t necessarily the greatest opener, but offers a reliable body that replaces itself in hand and fills out your curve.
- Glacial Shard – A pretty recent addition, Glacial Shard fills two purposes – it’s another 1-drop and a way to slow down the opponent in the mid/late game. If he spends whole turn playing a big minion and you freeze it, that’s a huge tempo win.
- Prince Keleseth – Early in the Kobolds and Catacombs expansion, players were having success without running Prince 2. After things have settled, however, it seems better to include him in Zoo lists.
- Tar Creeper – Even though Tar Creeper looks more like a defensive tool a slow deck would play, having a solid body to protect the rest of your board can be very powerful.
- Vicious Fledgling – Snowball machine. If he doesn’t get answered immediately, it will get stronger and stronger every turn, even faster if you roll a Windfury Adapt.
- Saronite Chain Gang – How long can this go on? Saronite Chain Gang helps stabilize against aggressive decks and pairs well with Prince Keleseth.
- Spellbreaker – In the current metagame, there are several premium Silence targets, warranting the inclusion of at least one Spellbreaker in most board-centric decks.
- The Lich King – Another big, late game minion to have in those slow matchups. By Turn 8, they usually have already used most of their removals, and Lich King can win the game by himself if he sticks.
Warlock Zoo Mulligan Strategy & Guide
The mulligan section into two parts – against fast decks and against slow decks. Fast decks are generally the Aggro decks (e.g. Pirate Warrior) or high tempo Midrange decks (e.g. Midrange Hunter). Slow decks are slower Midrange and Control decks.
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Voidwalker – Landing a 1-drop is critical against aggressive decks. Of the 1-cost minions in the deck, Voidwalker is the most defensive and resilient to Patches.
- Malchezaar's Imp – While Machezaar’s Imp lacks the taunt that Voidwalker offers, it has the same statline, making it a good keep.
- Flame Imp – It may seem counterintuitive to keep a card that damages your hero against fast decks, but Flame Imp has the stats to battle for board.
- Prince Keleseth – There is never a matchup or situation where you want to mulligan Prince Keleseth. The win rate associated with this deck skyrockets when he’s in the opener.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Fire Fly & Glacial Shard – Although opening with a 1 mana minion is great, the deck has abundance of 1 mana minions and those aren’t best. Keep them if you don’t have another, but don’t if you get one of the 1-drops above.
- Tar Creeper – With a 1-drop. Tar Creeper is great against faster decks, but you still prefer to have a 1 mana play instead.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Flame Imp – Against slower decks, the aggressive nature of Flame Imp makes it the best turn one play.
- Kobold Librarian – A 2/1 on turn 1 is already a good play against decks without Patches. The fact that Librarian replaces itself in hand makes it a great keep against Control.
- Prince Keleseth – In slower decks, an early Prince Keleseth can accumulate even more value. Keep this card.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Fire Fly – Again, not the ideal turn 1 play, but does offer some valuable refill against slower decks that look to remove your minions.
- Voidwalker – While the taunt is less relevant than against Aggro decks, dropping a minion on turn one is still good.
- Malchezaar's Imp – Malchezaar’s Imp isn’t aggressive enough to be a priority keep against slower decks.
- Darkshire Councilman – You can keep it on a Coin, with a 1-drop already in your hand. Darkshire Councilman can snowball the game if not answered quickly, and thanks to a high health it might be hard to deal with so early in the game.
Warlock Zoo Win Rates
Warlock Zoo Play Strategy
Warlock Zoo’s primary concern is maintaining control of the board. While this game plan may seem singular, actualizing is very different when facing Aggro and Control.
The Play Strategy section of this guide will take you through the details of both Aggro and Control matchups.
The first few turns set the tone of the matchup against Aggro decks. During this critical early game, there is typically an intense battle for the board. More than likely, the player than wins the board wins the game.
Do what you can to win the board, sacrificing value if necessary. Most likely, if you can get to the mid-game ahead, you’ll have the tools to keep the lead. Losing cards to Soulfire and Doomguard is rarely as important as the tempo gain from playing them. Usually, Life Tapping after you gain a lead will give you enough staying power.
That said, use Life Tap sparingly against hyper-aggressive or burn heavy decks. Your life total is meant to be used as a resource, not only through your Hero Power, but also cards such as Flame Imp and Kobold Librarian. Just don’t expend so many hit points that you fall into the range of burn.
Bloodreaver Gul'dan on turn 10 can lock opponents out of the game, both because of the board state it creates and the Lifesteal from the Death Knight hero power.
Against Control Decks, the challenge is toeing the line between pressuring the opponent and overextending on the board. This deep into a Standard rotation, board clear options are numerous, so be aware of AoE spells your opponent has access to.
In the first few turns, you’re probably safe loading up the board with minions. However, as you start approaching 4-5 minions in play, you may need to hesitate before committing more. Beginning around turn 4, you want to start weaving in Hero Powers to maintain a full hand. Doing so will allow you to refill if you board is dismantled.
Continue pressuring your opponents through the mid-game. An early Prince Keleseth can protect you mid-game board presence from crippling damage-based AoE, but even that won’t save you from some of the bigger clears. It’s very important to know what kinds of AoEs your opponent is playing. For example, when you face a Spiteful Priest, you know that he can only deal 3 AoE damage through Duskbreaker. Because of that, it is wise to keep your minions above that threshold. Instead of trading with a 4 health minion, you might trade with a smaller one. Yes, it might make your board slightly weaker and some of the trades awkward, but that’s the cost of playing around AoE.
Unlike against Aggro, your cards are much more important in slower matchups. Try to use Soulfire and Doomguard when your hand is empty or when you have Malchezaar's Imp in play. Sometimes it’s still a good idea to drop them to gain extra tempo, even if you discard something, but do it only if you have to.
Bloodreaver Gul'dan can often close out games that go long enough. Still, be cautious of the timing of your Death Knight. Playing it with an empty hand into a Psychic Scream or Twisting Nether can leave you with few options moving forward. It’s usually the best idea to use it as a refill. First bait a big AoE with solid board, and only then
Warlock Zoo Card Substitutions
There is no direct replacement for Prince Keleseth in this deck. Removing him alone leaves a gaping hole in your mana curve that cannot be filled by a single card. Warlock Zoo can certainly be successful without Prince Keleseth, but it reshapes the build quite a lot. If you don’t have Keleseth, you need to fill your 2 mana slot in a meaningful way. The best 2 cards to do that right now are Vulgar Homunculus and Demonfire. The first one is a solid 2/4 Taunt with a Demon tag, it’s a well-rounded card and a good Turn 2 play in most of the matchups. The second one, while not amazing, can be used either as a buff on one of your small Demons, or as a 2 damage removal if you need it. It’s a good follow-up to Turn 1 Demons, especially Voidwalker. Here is an example non-Keleseth deck list:
Patches the Pirate was nerfed in the last patch, and the deck no longer wants to play Pirate package. While in theory you could still run it, I don’t think it would improve your win rate.
General Card Replacements
- Malchezaar's Imp – It’s a Karazhan card, and some players don’t have that adventure. Since the deck puts such a heavy focus on 1-drops, you most likely want to play another 1-drop instead. Blood Imp or Acherus Veteran are some of the viable options, but remember that your Discard card will be weaker without it.
- The Lich King – The card is not really an important part of the deck. It’s cool to have some late game in a slow matchup, but you can replace it with something generic, good card like second Tar Creeper, Cobalt Scalebane or Fungalmancer.
- Bloodreaver Gul'dan – There is definitely no direct replacement for Warlock Death Knight Hero, and by removing it, you will also need to alter your play style a bit (you have to finish the games quicker, as you don’t have the big swing that comes with Bloodreaver). You probably want to use the same replacements as above.