[Deck Guide] Midrange Lackey Handlock by X_Why_Z
Are you a Warlock fan who’s tired of playing Zoo just to stay competitive? Miss the good ol’ days of drawing cards with your hero power and smashing your opponent’s face in with Mountain Giants? Good news, there’s a new competitive arhetype for you!
Lackey handlock is a concept which I’ve been working on since the beginning of Rise of Shadows. The idea is to exploit the inherent synergy between lackey generation and hand-size cards. In Saviors of Uldum, Warlock received some fantastic additional lackey support which finally allows the deck to shine. The most notable thing about it now is that between Mountain Giants and EVIL Recruiter, it has two ways to summon 8/8 worth of stats by turn 4.
The deck can be quite tricky to play, especially if you don’t have experience playing handlock in the past. The first thing that you should know is that this is NOT a control deck. There is no death knight to carry you in the late game, and very little healing is available, so if you only focus on removing your opponent’s minions, you will usually fall behind and lose. This is a board-centered midrange deck, which means that you should aim to take control of the board around turns 4-5 and win by overwhelming your opponent with overstatted minions.
The gameplan of this deck changes slightly based on how aggressive your opponent’s deck is. Against slower decks, you can use your hero power as often as possible in order to expedite your big threats. Against aggressive opponents, it’s important to start developing minions early to avoid falling behind on the board and on health. In the end, your win condition is always to hit your opponent in the face, so do whatever it takes to get your minions in play safely.
I had to do a lot of experimenting to figure out which cards are best to include. I don’t think my current list is necessarily the most optimal one, so instead of explaining why I chose those specific cards, I’d rather talk about all of the cards I think you could reasonably include in the deck.
- The Lackey Package: (Sinister Deal, EVIL Genius, EVIL Cable Rat, EVIL Recruiter, Dark Pharaoh Tekahn). This package is so strong, it should be in every competitive Warlock deck until the next rotation. It works particularly well in this deck. The lackeys themselves are very good for swinging the board in your favor. The lackey generators are good for making proactive plays while keeping your hand size large. And finally, the two lackey-lovers can turn your lackey tokens into big threats at any stage of the game.
- Big Hand Lovers: (Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant). These cards define the deck’s gameplay. Keep your hand big enough, and you’ll get the satisfaction of slamming one of these on the board. They can each clear off several of your opponent’s minions, allowing you to hit them in the face and seal the game.
- Big Hand Helpers: (Mortal Coil, Infested Goblin, Barista Lynchen). Aside from the lackey generators, there are other cards you can play to keep your hand size up without losing tempo. Mortal Coil is an all-around useful card. Barista has decent synergy with other cards (especially the lackeys and Omega Agent). The new card that impressed me the most was Infested Goblin. It’s a mediocre card in a vacuum, but its synergy with this deck is insane. It adds cards to your hand to help your your Drakes and Giants, it has multiple layers of taunt to force awkward trades, and it generates tokens that you can turn into lackeys with EVIL Genius. It’s similar to Banana Buffoon, which turned out to be one of the best cards in Cyclone Mage.
- Board Clears: (Hellfire, Shadowflame, Lord Godfrey, Plague of Flames, Twisting Nether). This deck performs poorly when it’s behind on board, so it’s useful to have a few board clears to keep that from happening. Hellfire is particularly good because it can also help to close out the game with some face damage. Godfrey and Shadowflame are the next best considerations due to their power level. Plague of Flames and Twisting Nether are also playable, but they have the rather significant downside of destroying your own board as well.
- Removal/Tempo: (Voodoo Doll, Siphon Soul, Riftcleaver, Zillax, Sn1p-Sn4p, Siamat, Argent Commander). Voodoo doll is a core card due to its synergy with Mortal Coil and EVIL Genius. 5 mana to destroy a minion, summon a 2/2 and add 2 lackeys to your hand is one of the most powerful tempo plays in the game. Riftcleaver provides a similar tempo swing if you can afford to sacrifice a bit of HP, but I prefer Siphon Soul because keeping your health somewhat high is important. Zilliax, Sn1p-Sn4p, and Siamat are obviously strong cards that you might as well play if you have them.
- Taunt/Healing: (Neferset Ritualist, Sunfury Protector, Infested Goblin, Earthen Ring Farseer, Bone Wraith, Khartut Defender, Half-time Scavenger). These cards help a bit to ease the pain from your hero power, but more importantly, they protect your minions so that they can make more favorable attacks. If you’re properly controlling the board, minion health is more important than your hero’s health. For this reason, Neferset Ritualist is a great card to include. Sunfury protector is a veteran in handlock, but she’s currently outclassed by the new Taunt Lackey, which can be easily discovered from Sinister Deal. Any other strong taunt or healing cards are good to include if you prefer to play more defensively.
- Value/Tech Cards: (Ooze, Spellbreaker, Omega Agent, Archvillain Rafaam, Glinda Crowskin, Vulpera Scoundrel, Mojomaster Zihi, The Black Knight). These are some of the cards you can use to fill in the remaining slots in your deck. Spellbreaker should be the first tech card you include because it helps you get past taunts, which are otherwise pretty annoying for this board-centered deck. Omega Agent is the only good late-game bomb available to Warlock, and its effect is quadrupled if you play Barista Lynchen alongside it. Rafaam is a good tech against Bomb Warrior, and Glinda has synergy with lackeys, but they are both a bit on the greedy side.
There is not a lot of data on this deck, but my gut feeling is that it has reasonable matchups across the whole meta. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a positive winrate against most classes. The one favorable matchup that stands out the most is Combo Priest, which I saw a lot of on my climb at legend. I won the vast majority of those games, but my list was also stacked with silence and removal, so it might have been because of my tech choices rather than the strength of the deck.
The toughest matchups in the meta are Aggro Rogue, Battlecry Shaman, and Control Warrior. Rogue and Shaman are capable of generating lots of burst damage, which takes advantage of the Warlock hero power. The trick to beating them is to get ahead of them on board before they get you low enough to finish you off with direct damage. The trick to beating Control Warrior is to put on lots of pressure before they draw Dr. Boom and to use your hero power aggressively throughout the entire game.
Edit by Hearthstone-Decks.net:
There is some data aviable for this Deck now on HsReplay with a total sample size of 2,100 games.
In your mulligan, you want to look for strong minions that give you the board early. If you’re facing an aggressive class like Rogue or Shaman, you want to mulligan for EVIL Cable Rat, Sinister Deal, and Mortal Coil, which all allow you to efficiently contest the board early on. In general, you can also look for Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant, and EVIL Recruiter. Do not keep EVIL Genius in the mulligan unless you already have other minions that you can gobble up with it.
If you’d like to know which legendaries are most important for this deck, here’s how I would rank them (along with some alternatives):
Zilliax > Godfrey > Siamat > Tekahn > Barista Lynchen > Sn1p-Sn4p > Harrison Jones > The Black Knight > Bloodmage Thalnos > Rafaam > Glinda > Mojomaster Zihi
The most important thing is to make sure you have a reasonable amount of cards that fit into each of the categories I described. For example, if you don’t have Godfrey, you might want to include Plague of Flames instead along with more token generators like Sn1p-Sn4p. If you don’t have Zilliax, you should just craft him already.