Our Zoolock deck list guide for the Saviors of Uldum expansion will teach you how to play this explosive Warlock list. This guide includes Mulligans, Gameplay Strategy, Card Substitutions, and Combos/Synergies!
Introduction to Zoo Warlock
Zoo Warlock is one of the true evergreen archetypes of Hearthstone, having seen play since the Classic days in some form basically throughout the game’s entire history. While the specific synergies change from rotation to rotation, the core goal of Zoo is to leverage the Warlock class’ premium one-drops (like Flame Imp and Voidwalker) to quickly get on the board, then abuse the Life Tap hero power and the low mana curve to basically play two cards every turn in the later stages of the game, either maximizing a tempo lead or quickly finding a lot of burn tools to finish off the match depending on the build and the metagame.
With Doomguard moved to the Hall of Fame, there was enough design space opened up so that the developers could print strong cards for the archetype, and it seemed like the Lackey-based synergies would make the deck one of the stronger contenders of the Saviors of Uldum meta. Unfortunately, it’s still squeezed between Mage and Warrior, with Warlock languishing on the bottom of the class winrates. Nevertheless, Zoo can still get you fairly far if you pilot it efficiently. The currently popular versions run absolutely no burst from hand apart from Leeroy Jenkins, which means Zoo once again plays essentially as a control deck in most matchups, removing all threats as the game progresses and dealing damage with its excess minions on the board. Thankfully, you’re well-equipped to create a massive board with cards like Scarab Egg, EVIL Genius and Grim Rally. The star of the mid-game is Diseased Vulture and its ability to generate massive boards seemingly out of nowhere, ensuring you don’t run out of gas.
Mulligan Strategy & Guide
Higher Priority (keep every time)
Flame Imp – The highest stats for a one-drop with the lowest downside available to you, it’s a must-keep in every matchup. However, keep in mind that a Backstab can really ruin your day against Rogues, therefore consider keeping an additional one-drop or two in your starting hand in these matchups.
Scarab Egg – Many of your synergies revolve around popping this bad boy in some capacity, therefore you should keep it even when going first. You will easily recoup the tempo loss.
EVIL Genius – Beyond the egg, any token or small minion is a juicy target for consumption and the lackeys are fantastic tempo options early on.
Magic Carpet – For a deck that lives and dies based on its board control, Rush is basically as good as Charge. If you’re ahead, it gives you a welcome attack buff – and if you’re behind, it’s your one lifeline to fight back.
Lower Priority (keep only if certain conditions are met)
Other one-drops – While Flame Imp is the apex predator, you definitely want to hold on to at least one in every case to guarantee a turn one play. If you have Magic Carpet in hand, keep as many as you can – just like with Scarab Egg, it will repay the tempo debt with interest. Keep two if you’re on the coin. Sinister Deal is, of course, not a one-drop.
Dire Wolf Alpha – This card gets exponentially better when you have a wide board and are understatted otherwise and can help you in aggro mirrors if you want to squeeze out better trades from your one-attack minions early one. Still, they’re only worth keeping if you’ve otherwise got the tools needed for your gameplan.
Grim Rally – Similarly to the cards above, it’s only worth keeping in specific situations when you can already see your first few turns and feel like you’re guaranteed to have a wide board to leverage soon thereafter.
EVIL Recruiter – You only want to keep this if you can guarantee a Lackey in play early on – which, of course, means that you want to keep it together with Sinister Deal or EVIL Cable Rat when you’re offered both.
Diseased Vulture – The real star of the show nowadays, and yet, it can be a trap to keep it in your opening hand without a sufficient early game. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the extra minions if you play it on turn 4, which means you can’t construct your entire game plan around this minion.
Zoo Warlock Play Strategy
The key to increasing your win rate in aggro mirrors with Zoo is to figure out whether you’re supposed to play for board control at any given time. Since this particular version of the archetype has almost no burn available to it and thrives upon buffing wide boards, your goal is always going to be to find value trades and control the board. This will also allow you to Life Tap more often without risking death, since you’re limiting your opponent’s opportunities to deal minion damage to you.
So how do you establish an early board lead? By maximizing your chance of value trades. This is done by finding the most possible extra damage points Dire Wolf Alpha, making play order and minion placement critical. It’s more than worth sacrificing a lot of resources in order to stay ahead on the board – even to the extent of playing an Abusive Sergeant for tempo if needed –, since it’s easy to refill with Life Tap. Unless you feel like you’re going to lose in the next few turns, always prioritize value trades over face damage. You also have the option to drop a pile of stats on the table in the mid-game with EVIL Recruiter and Diseased Vulture, but these only serve to solidify an existing advantage as their lack of initiative won’t help you claw back onto the board.
In fact, your one source of initiative is Magic Carpet, and it’s enough to single-handedly help you recover the tempo lead. It’s often worth coining it out instead of other higher-initiative plays because of its high health, and once you’ve regained the tempo with the Rush buff, even the simple +1 attack can be a game-changing benefit in the long run. If you feel like you’re falling behind but you have a Magic Carpet in your hand, make sure to hold back your one-drops until you can cast them alongside it.
Sometimes you’ll encounter situations where you really want to pop your Scarab Egg but your opponent only has one-attack minions on the board. You can use your Abusive Sergeants to give their minion a temporary buff before trading into it.
If you run a version with Sea Giants, there’s a cool trick that might come handy sometimes. If you discount it to exactly 1 mana, it will gain +1 Attack and Rush from Magic Carpet, which can let you remove something immediately and get a lot of cheap tempo.
Since you have no direct damage, your base strategy is fairly similar to what you’re trying to achieve in the aggro matchups, but with a few notable exceptions. You want to push as much damage in the early turns as possible, then only make key trades against minions whose ability could potentially be detrimental to you – otherwise you’d simply be missing out on face damage. Of course, heavy removal-based decks like Control Warrior and Conjurer Mage are really bad matchups for your general gameplan – this is why the deck is only a niche option in the Saviors of Uldum metagame. However, you do have the opportunity to repopulate your board multiple times with EVIL Recruiter and Diseased Vulture, giving you some much-needed staying power for these matchups alongside Dark Pharaoh Tekahn.
Grim Rally is also a good way to finish the games early. If you manage to stack a solid board and then buff everything, you might be able to close out the games before your opponent’s big AoE clears come into action. If they’re damaged based, you can also try to keep your minions out of range (e.g. Warrior can deal 2 damage on Turn 4 with 2x Warpath, so buffing your minions above 2 is a great idea). Keep in mind, however, that using Grim Rally on a Scarab Egg will not buff the three 1/1 minions that spawn from it.
Zoo Warlock Card Substitutions
You really don’t want to mess with either the quantity of the quality of the one-drops in this deck, but certain tools on the higher end could be adjusted depending on the opponents you’re facing and the cards available to you in your collection. While the specific effects of The Soularium and Dark Pharaoh Tekahn – the two most expensive cards in an otherwise fairly cheap archetype – can’t be replicated by any other card, you do have some reasonable alternatives. Other than that, Leeroy Jenkins is also not necessary, but highly desirable – it gives you a way to close out games in a form of reach damage from hand.
As for the cards that can be used as replacements. Weapon removal in the form of Acidic Swamp Ooze is a viable option against Warriors, Hunters or Rogues, and so is a Witch's Cauldron in general if you feel like you need more initiative. If you’d like to have even more options to play with Diseased Vulture, you can consider adding Spirit Bomb. If you’re playing against many aggro decks, Sea Giant is always a desirable option. You can also try SN1P-SN4P. Yes, it’s a Legendary, but it was given out for free recently, so most of the players should own it.