First time legend. 🙂 From Rank 10 when I switched to Zoo, it took about five days to hit legend. I’m completely F2P, so this deck has no Naxx cards (besides two from the free week, so that’s not completely true). The more I play with the deck, I do not feel like I like I am really missing anything from not using Naxx.
I feel like Zoo at the moment has so many viable options that I will explain why I DIDN’T take certain cards rather than the ones I did take.
Harvest Golem: This is considered a staple card in Zoo by many peole, but I did not use it at all in my climb. It just seems too slow to me. Against Warrior, Paladin, and some Druid decks, the amount of damage you get by bashing face after you clear their board is really important, and Harvest Golem just really isn’t that good at that. Even if he is the highest value three drop, I think it’s better to take a faster, also high-valued card, since sometimes you often have to be able to push damage in. I think this applies to Echoing Ooze too.
Zombie Chow: I don’t really understand the sense of using this card in Zoo. It’s only really good against other minion heavy decks like Hunter or Priest, and even then, it’s only good early game. If you draw it late, it can be unplayable.
Leeroy Jenkins: I ran Leeroy in this deck as a finisher for a really long time, and it was hard to realize just how much he was hurting me, since he would still give me wins every once in a while. Zoo is just not about burst damage, it’s about being able to drop minions. Leeroy feels like a very poor choice in a Zoo deck to me, since he can ONLY be used as a finisher. Other decks such as Miracle, Hunter, and even Handlock can use him as removal or to push for damage, but in Zoo, if you use him as removal, his whelps will end up clearing some of your minions and the tradeoff will be too big.
Leper Gnome: I don’t feel like Leper Gnome is high enough value to be played in a Zoo deck. The whole point of Zoo is that it plays high value minions to beat Aggro, and low cost minions to beat Control.
Mulligan and early game guide:
You pretty much always want to keep your primary one drops (Argent Squire, Flame Imp, Voidwalker) and if your are on the coin consider keeping your primary two drops (Knife Juggler, Haunted Creeper). Flame Imp is the card that you ideally would drop on turn one in every matchup (even Rogue, baiting out their Backstab with your Flame Imp so your Juggler is safe is worth).
Against Hunter, Voidwalker is a great starting play. He trades well with Webspinner and Leper Gnome, and with Abusive Sergeant trades with a buffed Undertaker. If you cannot clear the Undertaker on turn 2, SOULFIRE IT. It can get out of control really quickly and you have no hard removal. Soulfiring whatever they get out of their animal companion is always a great play and will put you ahead. You really want to try your best to play around Explosive Trap in every way possible. I will sometimes use my Owl on the Mad Scientist just to prevent the Explosive Trap chance. Use Eggs to try to scare them away from playing it out of hand. Remember, you can use Power Overwhelming to keep a 2-health minion alive through the Explosive trap. That has won me more than one game.
Against Priest, you want to try to get your Nerubians and Dwarves out as fast as possible. Soulfire the Undertaker here too. Consider Soulfiring the Northshire Cleric here too, if you do not have a Flame Imp or Abusive Sergeant you can use to clear it. The Undertaker Priests lack consistent card draw especially if they don’t run Thoughsteal, so if you are able to gain board control, you can snowball to a win fairly consistently. Auchenai + Circle is the bane of this matchup. It can easily wipe out 2 or 3 cards if you are not careful. There’s not anything in particular you can do besides trading with everything Priest puts out so it isn’t quite as devastating. A trick for this matchup only is to use your Void Terror to eat a Haunted Creeper. A 4/5 Void Terror is immune to Auchenai + Circle AND Shadow Word: Death. You get the two Spiders out of it too!
Rogue: Just spam out minions here. Rogue doesn’t have the removal to deal with all of them, unless you set up Fan of Knives. Always clear the board, since you never know how much burst they have and you don’t want Rogue to have an additional 3 or 4 damage. If they get a huge Edwin and your Owl is nowhere to be found, you may have to race and hope that they do not have Leeroy and that you can draw Doomguard our Soulfire. It’s almost impossible to win if you trade your entire board into him.
Mirror: Soulfire the Flame Imp pretty much always (only exception is Abusive on Argent Squire). This matchup doesn’t really feel that skill heavy to me honestly. Neither side can answer a Doomguard well, so if one player gets Doomguard out first, they usually win.
Handlock: With changes to Handlock to include Belcher, this is the toughest matchup there is imo. Try to force them to use their Owl on your Juggler/one of your buffed minions. Try to save your Owl to silence their taunt for lethal rather than using it to kill their Twilight Drake. Ideally, you want to have them down at 15ish health on turn 5, then burst from there. This is the one matchup where I miss Leeroy.
Warrior: This matchup is pretty easy honestly. Don’t worry about them getting value out of their Armorsmith via Unstable Ghoul, just trade as effeciently as possible then bash face. The only way you lose is if they get to a point where they can safely drop Alex, Grom, and Rag. Sludge Belcher seems to be one of the reasons people fear playing Zoo now, but Doomguard trades great with it, as does Abusive/Dwarf on pretty much anything.
I do not have as much to say about other matchups since these decks were pretty much all I was seeing on ladder at rank 5-1. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!