Zoo Warlock, or Zoolock, was made by Reynad early on in Hearthstone’s history, and it has managed to survive every meta since, with varying degrees of potency. It is often thought of as being a very easy deck, but then there are players such as Firebat who say that “Zoo’s been tier one since day one” (Source). Currently Zoo is one of the strongest decks in everyone’s mind, earning high placements on all of the tier lists. While other decks have gotten worse with Standard’s arrival, Zoolock gained several strong additions, allowing them to dominate the meta.
This is a fairly standard decklist at the moment. The only places where you’d be changing things up would likely be the removal of Gormok for a second Defender of Argus, Dark Iron Dwarf, or Sea Giant. People in the past have often argued between whether you should run two Flame Imps one Argent Squire or vice versa, but at the moment most agree that the Argent Squires are better. Some people question the Brann, but with his synergy with all your buff cards, as well as being a very strong body in his own right, he fills the deck out perfectly.
This deck is what is known as a flood deck, meaning you flood the board with minions as fast as possible. For this style of deck, Warlock is perfect because once you have emptied your hand, you can refill it using your hero power. Also, since your cards tend to be on the cheap side, you can often Life Tap and play both the cards you’ve drawn. Overall, you draw lots of strong, low cost minions, and pump them out quickly, overwhelming your opponent.
One of the biggest misconceptions with this deck is the idea that you are supposed to go face often. This deck is a very fast deck, but it is not a face deck. Unlike Hunters or Shamans, you cannot afford to allow your board to die for more damage, because you don’t have spells to back it up. Instead, the deck focuses around making positive trades and keeping your opponent’s board clear, while pushing for a bit of damage every turn. With cards like Power Overwhelming and Abusive Sergeant, 1/1 minions are suddenly able to trade into much larger minions, allowing you to keep positive trades going.
The deck often finishes with a large burst of face damage from both the board and hand. Cards like Power Overwhelming, Doomguard, Gormok, and even the smaller buff cards allow for a significant amount of burst damage, especially if you’ve been able to amass a decent board. It is not unusual to produce ten or more damage from hand, finishing a game before your opponent even notices.
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This is one of your best matchups, barring insane Innervate plays. Controlling the board is what Zoolock does best, and using a Power Overwhelming and a one mana minion to clear a massive taunt is crippling for the Druid. The only thing you have to watch for here, apart from Innervates, is to not play into Swipe too hard. Trading off 2/1s is often better than putting your other minions down to one health, for example. Druids no longer have much direct damage either, so you can use your hero power liberally.
This matchup is largely based on who can establish board presence first. If you are able to quickly clear their Troggs and Totem Golems, then you are highly favoured to win, as you have the ability to push quite a bit of damage before they can begin lobbing spells at your face. If they are midrange, trying to play around Lightning Storm by keeping cards with Deathrattles alive, or keeping Imp Gang Boss alive so if they do spend a turn clearing your board, you’ll have things left over.
If you’re against Tempo Mage it’s very similar to Shaman, simply try to control the board as fast as possible. If you’re able to avoid being hit with big Flamewaker plays, then this should be fairly easy. If your opponent is a Freeze Mage the game gets a lot harder for you, but the gameplan gets a lot simpler. Go face, and hope for the best. Avoid Life Tapping below 22, as that tends to be their damage threshold. If you are finding you’re facing a lot of Freeze Mages, you can tech in an Iron Beak Owl or a Crazed Alchemist to deal with their Doomsayers.
Deathrattle Paladin can be a difficult matchup, but Zoolock is one of the best decks to beat them. You simply have too many threats and overload the board too quickly for them to continue clearing. Comboing cards like Brann or Imp Gang Boss with Voidwalker is key to avoid them being taken out by Truesilver Champions, and forcing the Paladin to use more valuable removal such as Equality.
This is easily the worst matchup for Zoolock. They have a lot of board clears, a lot of healing, and your worst enemy, Cabal Shadow Priest. If your opponent manages to steal an Imp Gang Boss or Brann, it’s almost impossible to come back from, so try and play around their turn six, if possible. Oftentimes it’s simply not possible, so play aggressively and hope for the best. Try to play around Holy Nova and Excavated Evil if possible.
Control Warrior is a fairly easy matchup. Their only good removal against your board is Brawl, so play around their turn five, but otherwise simply go face. Patron is much harder, be aware that they can use Whirlwind effects frequently, try not to leave your minions at one health, or low in general. Honestly the matchup is extremely difficult, so just try to win as fast as possible.
Go face and keep their board clear so they can’t make use of multiple Deathrattles or other combo effects. The Rogue’s greatest weakness is their health, as they are forced to use it as a resource. Make use of that and be aggressive. Be aware of Fan of Knives, but with Blade Flurry very rarely run anymore, that should be the only board clear you’ll need to worry about.