Our Frozen Throne Discard Zoo Warlock deck list guide will teach you how to pilot this once popular deck type! Our guide features mulligan, play, and card replacement strategies!
Introduction to Warlock Zoo
Zoo Warlock is one of the most popular archetypes in the history of Hearthstone. It’s a tempo deck that puts a lot of emphasis on early game board control, minion positioning and efficient trading. Zoo is one of the best decks you can pilot early in your Hearthstone career. It teaches you how to trade efficiently while teaching you how to position your minions correctly.
This deck had come upon hard times recently due to the speed of the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan meta, and then again missing any potential help in Journey to Un’Goro. It remains to be seen how it will do in the Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion.
Update – Frozen Throne Warlock Zoo September 2017, Season 42
Like other Warlock decks, Zoo isn’t performing too well on the ladder right now. This is likely one of the better versions, and can still be played and win games with some regularity. If you are looking for a deck to make a serious jump on the ladder it would be best to look elsewhere!
Frozen Throne (KFT) Warlock Mulligan Strategy & Guide
I’ll divide the mulligan section into two – 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
- Mulligan heavily for 1-drop minions. It’s really important to start with turn 1 play against Aggro, missing turn 1 can often mean you lost the game. Luckily, with the amount of 1-drops in the deck it’s almost impossible not to have anything to play on turn 1 if you mulligan properly.
- I wouldn’t keep Acherus Veteran unless you already have another 1-Drop in hand. It’s far better to play this while buffing something.
- If you’ve got your 1-drop already, then you should be desperately looking for Prince Keleseth. The faster you get this card on the board the faster it is getting value for you. You have a lot of 1-drops in your deck, and they are getting weaker every turn. An early Prince means you can get a lot more out of your small minions.
- You don’t keep 3+ drops in your mulligan, because they’re either too slow (Darkshire Councilman), aren’t guaranteed to hit on curve (Defender of Argus) or are just too expensive (Bonemare).
Vs Slow Decks
- In slower matchups, you can be a little bit greedy with your mulligan. 1-drops are still your highest priority and I toss away 3-drops when I don’t have 1-drops, but at the same time, if you have a 1 -> 2 -> 3 curve, then you can leave it. For example, Darkshire Councilman is a good keep if you have turn 1 and turn 2 plays, because even though it’s slow, it can snowball really well after 1-2 turns of not being answered.
- The truth is that you almost can’t be wrong with the mulligan in slower matchups. As long as you don’t keep any 4+ mana cards and try to curve out, you should be fine.
- Besides that, the matchup heavily depends on the exact matchup. For example, against Priest, Flame Imp has a higher priority, because it counters the turn 1 Northshire Cleric. It’s pretty much impossible to list which 1-drop is best in which matchup, so it mostly comes with the experience.
Frozen Throne (KFT) Zoo Warlock Play Strategy
When it comes to learning how to play Zoo Warlock, there are 3 most important things. One – trading efficiently. Current board state is important, but you also need to have the future turns in mind. When doing trades this turn, you want to think about the potential minions your opponent can drop next turn, or about the removals they can be holding. Two – positioning. Yes, it’s pretty interesting, because it’s one of the only decks in the game where positioning really matters. Defender of Argus affects adjacent minions, so putting the right minions in the right place can be a matter of winning or losing the game. And third – knowing then to shift the gears. Even in slow matchups you want to focus on board control early, but after a certain point you need to start dealing face damage. Knowing when to do that and how to set a proper clock is important.
You can’t say that Zoo is good or bad against Aggro, because it heavily depends on the deck you’re specifically talking about. Zoo Warlock is the master of early game board control. Which means that the deck should have a solid win rate against Aggro decks that rely on early board presence. You should be able to consistently wrestle board control back from them, and then not let them do anything. At the same time, Zoo is pretty bad against Aggro decks that can pretty much ignore board control and just rush your face. With limited defensive options and Life Tap (which deals damage to your Hero) being a vital part of your strategy, those matchups can be really challenging.
You win those matchups by overwhelming them on the board in the early game. Dealing face damage is NOT important early, there will be time for that. At first you want to do as much efficient trading as possible. If you kill an opposing minion while yours survives, that’s a small victory. If you kill a 2-drop with a 1-drop, that’s another small victory. Those things don’t really matter individually, but after a while those small advantages should stack and you should win board control.
But overall, no matter what Aggro deck you face, you want tempo. Opening with a 1-drop is absolutely necessary. It’s not that bad if both of you skip a 1-drop, but if you don’t have one, but your opponent does, you’re already playing from behind and that’s something you don’t want. Zoo is REALLY bad at playing from behind, you have pretty much no comeback mechanics and if you lose the board, only a clutch Despicable Dreadlord that might sweep the board.
In fast matchups, Defender of Argus is MVP, because it forces the opponent to trade instead of going face. You save health, you control the board etc. When playing against Aggro, you most likely want to Taunt the two highest health minions, so try to keep them together. But to be fair, Taunting two of anything is already good. Sometimes you’ll be forced to play Taunt on a single minion, because there will be no better option.
Against board-oriented Aggro decks, including mirror matchups, games should be decided around turn 5-6. The player with the board advantage usually wins the whole game. And the “face rush” Aggro matchups are decided by how much health you still have when you’ve taken the board control completely and started hitting them. If you’re low, they might still finish you with burn, even though you’ve taken the board.
If you’re under a lot of pressure health-wise, let’s say that Pirate Warrior attacks your Hero with weapons all the time and you get lower and lower, while you have no way to Taunt up, you can go for a desperate play and try to race him. It won’t work a lot of the time, but sometimes you will get the right cards and win that race. Without Taunts, it’s probably your only option. One Defender of Argus on two big minions can save your skin, but if you don’t draw it, you have to improvise.
Bonemare can also get you out of tough situations by creating a tough to kill taunt minion, trading up, and/or creating more board presence.
Slower, Control games are generally harder to play correctly than Aggro ones. Your game plan is a bit different, since the games are significantly slower. Your opponent won’t likely put too much pressure early, but will answer your threats instead. You need to refill your hand as much as possible, try to not play into AoE etc. But first things first.
The first way to win vs a slow deck is just curving out. This win condition depends solely on your opponent drawing poorly, but it happens, so why not try to use it? Having a slow start might be acceptable in those matchups, but high tempo opening is still better. You plan to play minion after minion, flood the board on turn 4-5 and start putting serious pressure. Now, there are two ways this plan can go. Either your opponent can have the answers for your early game minions, a big AoE for after you get some solid board OR they might not have any good early answers and you just put so much pressure that you win the game. The latter doesn’t happen that often, but it sometimes does, so from time to time you end up with a really quick win.
First option is more likely, so most of the time after your board gets answered you want to take the game a little bit slower. The thing that have always destroyed Zoo are AoE spells. Depending on the matchup and the kind of AoE they run, you can play around it in a few ways. First one is trying to keep your minions above the AoE range. Let’s say that you face a Shaman. First AoE you play around is Maelstrom Portal, so keeping your minions at 1 health is just a bad idea, because your whole board can get wiped by one stupid 2 mana AoE. Then, the second one is Lightning Storm. In that case, it’s safe to keep minions at 3 health or above – 3 is not too safe, because of a possible Spell Damage or a 50/50 roll, but 4+ should be good enough. And the third one, in Elemental decks, is Kalimos, Primal Lord – you play against it also by keeping your minions above 3 health. How can you do that? Well, sometimes instead of taking a good trade with your high health minion, you can decide to sacrifice your small health guys to not play into the AoE. You can also buff some minions with Defender of Argus. Darkshire Councilman and Sea Giant are your best anti-AoE minions, as they have high health and are out of range of most of the AoEs. However, they’re more vulnerable to single target AoEs, so you want to back them up with 2-3 small minions to be in a good position against either of those.
If you have no sticky minions (Possessed Villager) or no high health minions to play around AoE, there is one general rule. You want to have enough minions to put pressure, but not enough to play into the AoE. Let’s say 3-4 minions with ~6-8 attack total should be enough. If you go all in and dump your whole hand on the board, AoE will destroy you completely. But if you don’t pressure your opponent enough, single target removals will be enough to hold the board and you will give them more time to draw AoE. You want to hit that sweet spot for them to feel threatened and force an AoE on a pretty weak board, then when they’ve used their AoE already you can be more confident about playing more stuff and putting more pressure.
Remember that you hit your power spike in the mid game and after that you start to get weaker and weaker, while your opponent gets stronger. You don’t want to draw out the game too long. because at one point you’ll be putting a 2/2 and 1/3 on the board, while your opponent plays a huge minion that you can’t possibly answer and just crushes your small guys. It basically means that as the game goes, you want to get more and more aggressive. Even though board control is seemingly your #1 priority, at one point you can stop doing that. Stop trading (take only the best possible trades, like 1/1 into 4/1), stop playing around AoE, start flooding the board and face rushing. It’s a desperate move, but if you don’t do that, you will just slowly lose the game and get nowhere. It doesn’t give you a high chance to win and it’s easy to counter, but at the same time, it’s still better than dragging on the game and losing 5 turns later.
Frozen Throne (KFT) Zoo Warlock Card Substitutions
In general Zoo is a relatively cheap deck, but a lot of the versions now run the Pirate package. If you don’t have Patches the Pirate, you’ll want to also cut Bloodsail Corsair. IF you aren’t running Prince Keleseth, you can add in Dire Wolf Alpha, Knife Juggler, or Fallen Sun Cleric in their place. If you are, cards like Voidwalker, Sanguine Reveler, and Devilsaur Egg are possibilities.
Speaking of Prince Keleseth, while he’s a powerful card he isn’t completely necessary for the deck. The times you actually get him in your opening hand are going to be relatively few, but when you do it’s a super strong play. If you don’t want to run him, you can run any of the 2-drops I listed above. Dire Wolf Alpha is especially strong in Zoo decks.
The Black Knight is more of a tech card, so it isn’t required that you have it, but currently it’s pretty strong because it takes down The Lich King. You can run Doomguard or Ravenous Pterrordax instead.
Sea Giant is a powerful card, but you might not own and might not want to craft it. Doomguard is a classic Warlock Zoo minion that can be added in its place, or you can try Ravenous Pterrordax. The big problem for the Pterrordax addition is that this particular version doesn’t run many Deathrattle minions that synergize with the card.