Warlock Zoo Mulligan Strategy & Guide
The mulligan section is divided into two parts – against fast decks and against slow decks. Fast decks are generally the Aggro decks (e.g. Odd Face Hunter) or high tempo Midrange decks (e.g. Even Paladin). Slow decks are slower Midrange and Control decks.
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Fire Fly, Flame Imp, Kobold Librarian, Voidwalker – Those are the best cards you can drop on Turn 1, depending on the matchup and the situation. Ideally you want to open with one of them and then Keleseth on Turn 2, but since you won’t always get Keleseth, it’s fine to keep multiple 1-drops, so you can fill your Turn 2 with them too. Fire Fly and Voidwalker are better against Aggro, while Kobold Librarian and Flame Imp are better vs slower decks.
- 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. If you have it – keep it!
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Acherus Veteran – 1 mana 2/1 with no effect is a bad thing to drop on Turn 1. You want to keep it only as an “extra” 1-drop to get down on Turn 2 or even Turn 3 – keep it if you have other 1-drops already, don’t keep it by itself.
- Mortal Coil – Keep against Aggro. Having the ability to deal 1 damage and draw a card is great if you can consistently find a target – and you should be able to do it easily versus fast decks.
- Tar Creeper – Keep against Aggro. It can be used to protect the rest of your board or even your life total – since you’re playing a fast deck, your opponent will have to get through it quickly if he doesn’t want to lose board control, and he might need to use lots of resources to do that. However, DO NOT keep it if you don’t have any 1-drops in your hand – those are more important!
- Despicable Dreadlord – Can be kept against Paladin, but only if the rest of your hand is good. It can really win you that matchup, but at the same time, keeping it with a bad hand might mean that you skip Turn 1/2 and then lose because of that.
- Sea Giant – Just like Despicable Dreadlord, keep it against Paladin if the rest of your hand is good. It might seem a bit counter-intuitive to keep it, but in this one matchup the card is great. Board should be flooded on the both sides, so you might get it out for cheap or even free around Turn 4.
Warlock Zoo Win Rates
Warlock Zoo Play Strategy
Zoo is one of the decks that can’t do anything without board. Without a reactive game plan, and with limited ways to deal damage without a board, you simply need to maintain the board control throughout the game. The thing is – you can outlast any Aggro deck thanks to your Hero Power, but you can’t always outtempo them. That’s why during the early and mid game you want to play for the tempo.
Life Tap is a very powerful tool, but don’t use it unless you absolutely have to, or you would have floated mana otherwise. For example, if you can choose between a 3-drop and 1-drop and Tap on Turn 3, you play the 3-drop, simply because it’s a higher tempo play. Similarly, if you Life Tap too much before Turn 5, your Doomguard and Soulfire will be much worse – those cards are best when your hand is empty (then you don’t need to discard anything). That’s why it’s best to empty your hand and then start each turn with Tap (or Discard card if you draw one) – this way you maximized the early / mid game tempo, and your Discard draws are great, since your hand is empty or nearly empty.
A harder decision would be dropping a Doomguard when you have Bloodreaver Gul'dan in your hand and you’re going to discard it. Whether you should do it really depends on the situation – if you either desperately need that 5/7 with Charge, or that 5/7 with Charge is going to put you in a game-winning position, then do it. If you have no other plays, then also do it. Lots of Aggro games won’t last until Turn 10, and as much as DK Hero is a great finisher, you might not need it. However, if you’re close to Turn 10 and you can make another play, I’d still try to avoid discarding it, since dropping it is usually an instant win vs Aggro.
Prince Keleseth is obviously very useful. While you don’t hard mulligan for it (like, you don’t throw away your 1-drops hoping that you will get Keleseth), getting him is big for one reason – your minions can trade much more efficiently after they get the +1/+1 buff. Since Keleseth is initially a low tempo play, plus you need to draw some of the buffed minions for it to work, after you get Keleseth, don’t go aggressive! Just control the board and you should win the game – between your Hero Power and minions being buffed, you have a very high chance to get it. But by going aggressive, you give your opponent an opening. Just play it slowly, trade everything and at one point you’ll overwhelm the board thanks to the +1/+1 buff. That is, unless your opponent also played the Keleseth, then you might want to go aggressive depending on the matchup (generally – if you play against faster decks, you want to play defensive and when you play against slower decks, you want to play defensively).
However, the MVP of Aggro matchups is often a Despicable Dreadlord. Not only it puts a solid body on the board, but it deals AoE damage repeatedly. Not once – if it’s left on the board for multiple turns it can snowball the game really hard. Going into Turn 5, you want to set it up as well as possible. Do some minion trades, leave your opponent’s stuff at 1 health and let the Dreadlord do his job. If you’re ahead, it will be incredibly hard for your opponent to clear it. He can Silence it, but you don’t mind it that much – you will be able to trade into that Ironbeak Owl or Spellbreaker easily, while Dreadlord has already did its job (+Silence turn is generally a slow play, so you will get ahead even further).
This build runs two cards that benefit from your Hero getting damaged. First one is Duskbat – a new card from The Witchwood. Basically, there are two ways to make it work. First is a Turn 4 combo with Kobold Librarian or Flame Imp – this one is really powerful – e.g. in case of Flame Imp, you put 2/4, 3/2 and 2x 1/1 on the board for just 4 mana. However, since you need those two cards together, and you want to drop Imp & Librarian earlier, it doesn’t always work. A more common combo is Life Tap + Duskbat. Like I’ve said, you don’t really want to tap too early in the game, but around Turn 5 you’re often already close to being out of cards, so tapping is not that bad. The card is also great later in the game, where you tap every turn anyway – getting a two extra 1/1’s is a nice board flood. The card’s not an Imp Gang Boss, but it’s still solid.
The other card is Hooked Reaver, which works best against heavy face/burn decks – e.g. Face Hunter or Tempo Mage. Those will deal damage to you, a lot of damage, so at one point (quite quickly, to be honest) you will be able to drop a 4 mana 7/7 Taunt, which is great if they can’t Silence it. Since you will deal lots of self-damage with your 1-drops and Hero Power, plus you will probably get some damage from other Aggro deck on the way too, this card works really well in fast matchups. Keep in mind, though, that even if you play it as a 7/7 with Taunt, it will always get revived as a vanilla 4/4 with Bloodreaver Gul'dan – just something to keep in mind in case you plan to put a big Taunt wall with Gul’dan – it won’t work (the only Taunts this deck can revive are Voidwalkers).
Your other “win condition” against Aggro, especially the board flood decks like Paladins, are Sea Giants. They’re really classic cards, which were used in Zoo many times before. They’re most efficient in Aggro matchups, since both your and your opponent’s decks want to flood the board. In the mid game, you’re often in a situation in which your opponent has played a few minions, you already have something on the board, then play 2-3 more bodies and drop Giant for nearly free, or even completely free, making it a very powerful tempo move.
Games vs Control are less centered around controlling the board and more around trying to kill your opponent before it’s too late. While it’s true that Zoo has insane staying power among aggressive decks, but even your resources are limited. At one point, later in the game, your opponent will be dropping big minions or having access to huge board clears and even when drawing two per turn, you might end up with e.g. two 1-drops. Which basically means that you ideally want to finish the match before late game. At the same time, you rarely want to go all-in, because you will just play into your opponent’s AoEs. You need to find the right balance between tempo and value.
Managing resources, including using your Hero Power, is much more important in slow matchups. Against most of the aggressive decks, going all-in on the board is not a mistake, since they rarely run AoE clears. But when you play against Control, ideally you’d want to have around 5-7 damage spread among 2-4 minions. Of course, sometimes having more is fine, depending on the context (like, if your opponent already used most of his AoEs, or when he’s dropping many Taunts you need to get through). But that number is generally enough pressure to force a board clear without you being really hurt by it. You always want to have some sort of refill in case of a board clear – you need to keep up the pressure constantly. Giving your opponent even a single turn to breathe might be too much and you might lose.
Trading vs not trading – this part is very complicated. Generally, you prefer to deal face damage and let your opponent do the trades, and that’s what you’re going to do most of the time. However, there are situations in which trading is just better. First situation is having a good way to trade up. Let’s say your opponent has a 4/3 on the board, and you have a 2/1 minion + Acherus Veteran in your hand. Trading a 3/1 into a 4/3 is a good, high tempo trade, and you want to take it – otherwise that 4/3 would be able to kill one of your bigger minions. Another reason to trade is when your opponent might be able to set up an AoE.
Let’s say that you play vs a Control Priest, who can drop a Duskbreaker. If you have a 5 health minion on the board, and he has a 2 attack minion on the board, it might be wise to clear that minion with something else. If you don’t – he might run it into your 5 health minion and then Duskbreaker your board. Trading would mean that you would be left with a 5/2 minion after Duskbreaker, which is a huge difference. And finally, you always want to trade off the high priority targets. For example, cards like Northshire Cleric, Wild Pyromancer etc. which can punish you for leaving them alone – just kill those while you can.
Even if you’re doing some trades, you want to send as much damage face as possible every single turn. But, if you haven’t managed to kill your opponent in time, Bloodreaver Gul'dan comes into action. The card is amazing in those slow matchups (and in this case you really don’t want to discard it, unless you absolutely have to). Not only it re-floods the board with a single card (and your opponent might already be very low on board clears after so many turns of you putting pressure), but it upgrades your Hero Power. Yes, you no longer can draw multiple cards, but having the ability to deal 3 damage per turn can really put your opponent in an awkward spot. Especially if you face a deck with no natural way to restore health (like Priest or Warrior with their Hero Powers) – 3 damage per turn will stack up very quickly even if they remove the initial board full of Demons.
Warlock Zoo Card Substitutions
There is no direct replacement for Prince Keleseth in this deck. Just removing him from the list 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 you need to build it differently. 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, Dire Wolf Alpha and/or 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 is a good 2-drop in board flood decks, since you will be able to buff your small minions / tokens and trade up. The last 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 such as Voidwalker or Flame Imp.
In order to fit those cards (you’d want at least four 2 mana cards), you want to remove some of the 1 mana cards (such as Acherus Veteran and Mortal Coil), or perhaps a Saronite Chain Gang, since it’s slightly worse without Keleseth.
Other Card Replacements
Besides Prince Keleseth, Zoo Warlock is a deck that can be built on a budget quite easily. This build runs only two other Epics / Legendaries, and both of them can be replaced without hurting your win rate that much.
- Bloodreaver Gul'dan – One fun card you can run instead is actually Glinda Crowskin, if you’ve unpacked her, but don’t have a Gul’dan. She gives the deck a nice late game staying power, and if she sticks to the board she can really do wonders. Just imagine dropping a bunch of Kobold Librarians if you have enough health, in order to draw a few cards. Or possibly flood your board with 2/1’s and give one minion a bunch of Attack by replaying Acherus Veteran multiple times? That said, if you’re looking for a more generic replacement, there is no card that directly replaces his ability. You would rather just play a stand-alone strong card, such as Glacial Shard, Vicious Fledgling, Spellbreaker, Fungalmancer and such.
- Sea Giant – Similarly to Bloodreaver Gul’dan, you can’t really replace this card’s effect (maybe with Corridor Creeper, if it wasn’t nerfed), but it’s not vital to the deck’s game plan – you can still win games without it just fine. Pick any of the replacements listed under Bloodreaver Gul’dan!