Hearthstone’s Festival of Legends expansion attempted to bring numerous new archetypes to the game, but many of them have proved too weak to stand up to the top-tier meta decks. The buff patch was a minor remedy that improved meta diversity but did not make most of the brand-new archetypes viable. There are some exceptions. Outcast Demon Hunter, for example, has been a major success and remains one of the top meta decks. At a slightly lower level, the Festival of Legends Menagerie package has found widespread success. The best Menagerie decks are fully competitive and regularly reach Legend. In addition to them, the Menagerie package is playable in multiple classes. Even though it has not produced a top-tier meta deck, the Menagerie package has been the main success story in Festival of Legends so far when measured by the number of viable decks.
In this article, I take a look at the Neutral core that makes Menagerie decks rock and showcase the best Menagerie decks in the game. I also take a look at some of the more obscure Menagerie decks for which significant performance statistics are not yet available.
The Festival of Legends Menagerie Package
Menagerie decks are built around one key Neutral card: Party Animal. Competitive two-drop stats combined with a potent handbuff effect make Party Animal a stellar card. Not only that but building Menagerie decks is fun! You try to fit in as many different tribes as possible so that you will have a good chance to get as many buffs as possible.
Menagerie decks are by nature highly minion-focused, and they form a good baseline Hearthstone experience. Some people may consider them to be too fair, sometimes perhaps even simple to play, but they bring a touch of old-school Hearthstone into the modern age with their minion-combat style.
Another key ingredient of Menagerie decks is the Amalgam package. Amalgams count as all minion types, so whatever gaps you have in your deck or in your current draw, Amalgams can fill by taking the places of unused minion types. Mistake and Amalgam of the Deep were already in the game before Festival of Legends, and the latest expansion added The One-Amalgam Band to the mix. Amalgams also have some sweet synergy with Mech, as they can be Magnetized upon to give them more stats and keywords.
The One-Amalgam Band is a Legendary card, so it is quite expensive. But it is the perfect fit for a Menagerie deck as an Amalgam with a Menagerie Battlecry effect. There are currently no top-tier Menagerie decks, even though there are multiple Menagerie decks hovering at or above the magic 50% win rate. If you want to climb as high as you can, you are better off crafting a single top-tier meta deck. If you want to climb and also play a variety of decks while doing so, Menagerie could be your jam in this expansion.
The main Menagerie deck on the ladder is Menagerie Warrior. This is the class Blizzard was pushing Menagerie for in the expansion, as Warrior got Power Slider and Rock Master Voone in addition to the Neutral package, and both of these cards were also buffed in the patch. The patch was useful for the cards: Power Slider is one of the very best cards in the archetype, and Rock Master Voone is also playable now.
You do not have to craft Rock Master Voone to play Menagerie Warrior, although it is useful. The One-Amalgam Band and Astalor Bloodsworn are both stronger, so they should be your priority. As a bonus, they are both Neutral cards that can be played in a variety of decks!
The evolution of Menagerie Warrior has taken the deck from initially slower and Mechier roots to a faster, more one-drop-heavy direction.
Feno’s Menagerie Warrior was one of the first popular lists that found success:
Feno’s list (or the Ravager list) is still perfectly viable. More recently, the contribution of Snapdragon and Frequency Oscillator has been questioned, as deck buffs are quite slow and the deck is not heavy enough with Mechs to benefit from the discount enough. Note that Amalgams are Mechs too, so there are some Mechs in the deck.
The most modern take on the archetype looks like this:
There are more one-drops, and especially Glacial Shard, which is an active tool. There is Hawkstrider Rancher for immediate buffs instead of Snapdragon for deck buffs. The deck is just a little bit faster and stronger. This latest variant of Menagerie Warrior is currently the strongest Menagerie deck in the game, although it is not without contenders.
While Menagerie Warrior is the most obvious Menagerie deck, it is not the only one. The main challenger is Menagerie Rogue. Compared to older Menagerie Warrior lists, it looked like Rogue is the strongest Menagerie deck, but the latest variants of Menagerie Warrior have caught up and even slightly surpassed Rogue as the top Menagerie deck. Rogue still remains a fine option though.
While Rogue has no direct class support for Menagerie, it does have Shadowstep. And just like it was a good idea to Shadowstep your Prince Keleseth back in the day, it is a good idea to Shadowstep your Party Animal now.
Mix in the Concoction package with Potionmaster Putricide, the one-stop win condition Crabatoa, and a bit of Astalor Bloodsworn (another good Shadowstep target), and Menagerie Rogue starts to look quite scary indeed.
The deck combines the aggression of Pirate Rogue with some stronger punches and manages to find a successful combination. I would not necessarily craft MC Blingtron for this archetype, but it provides some fancy finishers every now and then.
For Rogue enthusiasts, Menagerie Rogue might not feel attractive. The deck does not play like a Rogue deck. It does not have a lot of tricks up its sleeve and it does not do crazy swing turns where you play a handful of cards all at once. However, if you usually do not play a lot of Rogue, Menagerie Rogue could be a deck for you for that class.
Menagerie Death Knight
The third Menagerie deck that has found proven success on the ladder is Handbuff Death Knight. Given that it is weaker than Frost, Unholy, and Blood Death Knights, one could ask why would you want to play this deck if you play Death Knight. I guess because buffing stuff up is fun and if you can also win more than half of your games, it is even more fun?
Party Animal is a fine card in this deck, but it only plays a support role. The real star is Nerubian Swarmguard. The more buffs you can land on your Swarmguard, the better. The Menagerie package gives you a backup plan in case you cannot find a big Swarmguard to instantly win. That’s the key development of this archetype since theorycrafting: the highrolls are insane, and this is the most reliable overall plan the deck has found.
Here’s my gameplay video of Menagerie Death Knight:
Now we are entering more experimental territory.
The grand idea of Menagerie Shaman is that Amalgams are both Totems and Murlocs. Shaman has some sweet tools to buff Totems and draw and play Murlocs. Add in the Menagerie package, and off you go!
This deck was built by Jambre early in the expansion. It has continued to see niche play with somewhat decent results, right close to a 50% win rate. There is not a lot of experimentation going on with Menagerie Shaman, so it remains uncertain how much the deck could be refined.
What about Paladin? Menagerie decks basically play out like an archetypal Paladin deck anyway. They do some buffs and play a lot of minions that have good stats. Menagerie and Paladin look like a perfect match.
Yet, Menagerie Paladin is not popular. I was able to find a couple of lists, but hardly any statistics on their performance. There were some Legend tweets in the mix, so clearly the archetype has potential, at least for late-season climbs.
Here is Chump’s take on the archetype:
Party Animal is joined by another handbuff card, Grimestreet Outfitter. With a lot of minions in the deck, Disco Maul is another obvious choice for a win condition. Add some Divine Shield and card draw into the mix, and Menagerie Paladin is ready to go!
The Future of Menagerie
We are currently in a four-set meta in the Standard format, so the number of cards is at its lowest. As new expansions are added to the game, there will be new opportunities for Menagerie decks to add individual pieces. A Quilboar here, a Beast there, and the minion-type variety of the decks becomes easier to maintain. If any new Amalgams or Menagerie synergy cards are added to the game, things get even better.
On the other hand, Menagerie decks are quite fair minion-based decks. As the power level of the format increases, minion-based decks are rarely the best decks. The decks that make good use of whatever broken synergies emerge are typically in the best position. The less you depend on the board and the more you can do directly from hand, the better. Very fast aggro decks can be board-based, but Menagerie decks rely on buffs and good stats, and they are not the fastest. As Menagerie decks have evolved during Festival of Legends, they have lowered their curves and gradually become faster and faster. However, the buff nature of the decks places a limit on how fast they can be.
Overall, it is unlikely that we would see a Menagerie deck at the very top. On the other hand, the archetype has already proven its ability to win games, and there are good reasons to expect Menagerie to remain a playable archetype. While all Menagerie decks share the same core of Party Animal and Amalgams, each class supports them in slightly different ways, which means that new innovations can still be found from any class in the game. This article features five classes, but there are another six classes that can still give Menagerie a try! Perhaps you will be the one who makes one of them work?