Here is the deck

handylock

Deck Overview The idea here is to see if we can’t make a deck that’s better than handlock at everything. It’s not clear if we succeeded, but here’s how it breaks down:

1xMortal Coil: We don’t play a 3-drop in this deck, because all 3-drops that could go in a control warlock deck suck at the moment. If anybody finds one that doesn’t suck, I’d love to hear it. Mortal coil gives us a way to efficiently use our mana if we don’t have coin – we have nine 2-mana cards, so we have good odds of having one to play on both 2 and 3, if we need to. Further, this will generally get money against any aggro deck. I didn’t put in two because I needed other cards, but also because finding two 1-health things to kill off in certain decks (control warrior) can be hard.

2xDarkbomb: There is a lot of aggro out there, and we need a play for turn 2 or 3 when we have the coin. Darkbomb kills Mechwarper, piloted shredder, showchugger, etc. Against aggro, our goal is to slow the game down to the point where our board wipes, taunts, and massive life gain can stabilize us. Darkbombing helps us do that.

2xAncient Watcher Another key part of slowing the game down. Useful for shadowflames, when silenced, or when taunted. Correctly played, I think this deck wins all fatigue wars (We have too many bombs), so anything that slows the game down is essential.

1xIronbeak Owl 1 silence is handy. I would play two, but can’t find space. Also, we already have 9 two-drops

2xMistress of Pain First controversial card! First: This card is not awesome vs. aggro. It’s…okay. It’s going to save you like 6ish life. What this card IS is flexible. Against aggro, it can buy you a turn or two because it has to be killed. Against control, you can get people to waste removal on it. This is all because, if you have one on board, and they don’t kill it, it is a threat to be demonhearted. Demonhearted mistress of pain, if not immediately dealt with, is guaranteed to win games, because you’re gaining 6 life per turn and probably killing an enemy creature. For this reason, it’s not the end of the world to play a voidcaller with only a mistress of pain in your hand, if you have demonheart: Turn 4 voidcaller (dies) -> Mistress of pain (summoned) -> demonheart on turn 5 is a pretty nice play. To my mind, mistress of pain and demonheart make this deck a bit unique as a handlock deck. Whereas handlocks typically have their life gain/stabilization in 3 cards (2x earthenring or healbot, Jaraxxus), this deck adds in Mal’ganis and mistress of pain. This means that rather than barely holding on versus some aggro deck and wondering “is he going to topdeck doomguard or soulfire”, you can put yourself WAY out of range. More on this later.

2xSunfury Protector Duh.

2xShadowflame Probably the most important card in the deck. Shadowflame’s just really good. I prefer it over hellfire because I don’t like taking 3 damage versus aggro. And, if you put something like voidcaller on the table, it tends to stick because people don’t WANT to kill it. Either way, shadowflaming voidcaller , moltens and watchers wins games.

2x Defender of Argus Also duh. There’s an argument for playing 1 of these and a sludge belcher. I could be talked into it. Consider it a tech choice – I really, really like having the ability to taunt up moltens and watchers. In particular, putting a watcher at 5/6 puts it out of range of a bunch of things (2nd death’s bite, shieldmaiden, dark iron’d flame imp, etc). So I went Argus.

2x Voidcaller In here instead of twilight drakes. Big advantage: Voidcallers give you tempo. Twilight drakes do not give you tempo. Everything that voidcallers can pull from your deck (Floating watchers, Mal’ganis, Jaraxxus, Mistresses of Pain) has to be dealt with immediately or bad @#$% happens. You will be surprised at how often you can pull something truly obscene out of your hand. Coin voidcaller into shadowflame is generally a guaranteed win against aggro decks. More talk on this later, as this is obviously a key to demonlock.

2x Demonheart: Some confusion on this card from people. I think it’s pretty great. It’s obviously outrageous with Mistress of Pain. It works as a cheaper Siphon Soul on a lot of things. It can also buff your big creatures to be utterly terrifying. Love this card. 8 targets to buff in the deck, and can be used as removal otherwise.

2x Antique Healbot Like Earthenring Farseer but better. I guess, given our other sources of healing and lack of 3-drops, earthenring might be better, but 8 points of healing is just so good. Screws with everybody whose plan is “I will kill him in 2 turns!”.

2x Floating Watcher So, we want these things from our demons: We want them to be worth pulling out of our hand with voidcaller. And we want them to not suck if we have to play them regularly. This second thing is why we don’t run most of the pre-GvG demons. At 4/4, watcher is a fine tempo pick to pull out of our hand (particularly if you can tap next turn to grow it to 6). On turn 7, it’s a 6/6 that threatens to grow, for 7. Also fine.

2x Siphon Soul It might be possible to cut these. Right now, I like them because it gives us 4 removal cards (2 demonfires, two siphon souls), which really helps in control matchups.

Jaraxxus If you get it out with Voidcaller, it’s a 3/15, which basically means if you taunt it aggro is dead. Otherwise, it’s a late-game heal and a winning card vs. control decks. Know when to use him, though: If you’re against a deck with a lot of burn, there are times when playing Jaraxxus is actually the only way you lose.

Mal’ganis Most terrifying card to get out with Voidcaller. Most useful for the hero immunity – the 2/2 to demons is nice, but doesn’t really win games. Getting him with Voidcaller is obviously amazing. Happens more often than you would think. Remember that your hero power does not do damage to you when Mal’ganis is in play!

2x Mountain Giant: I waffled back and forth on whether or not these should be twilight drakes…forever. Ultimately, I went with giants for the following reason: Neither drakes nor giants are good vs. aggro. Giants are significantly better in every control matchup, be it warrior, priest, handlock or druid.

2x Molten Giant Everybody’s playing zoo-like decks. Molten Giant is one of the strongest ways to stop a zoo-like deck. With your health-rebound potential, you can get back up to safe health pretty quickly after dropping giants.

Playing The Deck

Caveat Lusor (Let the player beware): I have played control warrior, handlock, control priest, control paladin and ramp druid to legend in various seasons. This is the hardest time I have had playing a deck, in terms of late-game decision making, in Hearthstone. You need to be keenly aware of the capabilities of your opponent’s deck on any given turn, and play accordingly, or you will lose games you should not lose.

That said, you have two basic plans:

Versus Aggro (Hunter, Mage, Paladin, Rogue, Shaman, Warlock): Keep Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Ancient Watcher, Shadowflame, Sunfury Protector. Keep Voidcaller and Molten Giant if you have shadowflame or a taunter, respectively. You’ll note that not all of the above are always aggro – I don’t play “guess the deck based on discard” games. I assume the worst case, which, for this deck, is aggro, and mulligan against it. You have a million ways to come back in a control matchup, but you need tempo plays and stalling tactics to win versus aggro.

Unlike a regular handlock, which has 2 ways to win vs. aggro (Board wipe, stall with taunts), you have three. You can board wipe, stall with taunts, but you can also out-tempo aggro decks using Voidcaller. Further, mistress of pain can put the game FAR out of reach and deny certain finishing tactics if it gets to that. In general, you’re looking to use darkbomb, watcher, sunfury and coil to stall until turn 4 or 5 where you can start playing legitimate threats or clearing the board. You have a lot of ways to heal – don’t bother keeping them in your starting hand, you will eventually draw into one.

Versus Control (Warrior, Priest, Druid) While druid and warrior can go aggro, their aggro is usually a lot slower. In these matchups, I assume control. Because dealing with each control deck is different (and, frankly, a lot more interesting and varied than vs. aggro), I will treat each one separately. Broadly, your plan is to play this out like a handlock: Drop a voidcaller or mountain giant on turn 4, and keep dropping bombs until they run out of ways to deal with them.

Priest This matchup is lopsided as @#$%. Handlock vs. Priest is already a bit of a blowout. Demonlock vs. priest is just brutal. It’s pretty straightforward. You have 9 threats (2x molten, 2x mountain, Mal’ganis, 2x Floating Watcher, 2x Whatever Gets Demonhearted). Priests have 4 efficient removals for them, at most (Mind Control, 2xDeath, Vol’jin). This leaves you with 5 things with 6 health or more that priest has to kill. It doesn’t happen.

Key ideas: I’ve played priest vs. handlock and handlock vs priest a ton. To win as a priest, you want to establish board control early and keep the handlock around 20 life. Live with the fact that he can only really play 1 card per turn, and, that by having board control, you can trade sort of efficiently with that 1 card per turn. With your 4 removals, you can deal with all of his giants. Maybe you can even deal with one using auchenai circle hero power or something. 4 attack isn’t terrifying, so you can generally kill the drakes with stuff you’ve got on board. Maybe you even manage a shrinkmeister/shadow madness thing. Keep building up the board and getting value. Eventually, he will Jaraxxus. Harrison his damn weapon, draw the rest of your deck, and try to finish him before you run out of ways to kill those 6/6s.

This plan sort of works. I win about half my games as priest vs. handlock. It doesn’t work at all versus demonlock, because you don’t have enough ways to kill stuff, and there’s no guarantee that he’ll even drop Jaraxxus. From the demonlock side, you need to make sure that your voidcallers don’t get shadow-madnessed and killed, so dropping them early is excellent. In general, you can run priest out of cards. Frequently, you can (and should) win this matchup without playing Jaraxxus, because the only way you can lose it is if your weapon gets Harrisoned and the priest draws a ton more cards.

Warrior In my opinion, the most interesting match for this deck. I started off losing a lot. Then, as I learned the matchup, I started winning a lot. Basics: You have more value in your deck than the warrior does. The warrior has more burst in his deck than you do. You can absolutely out-value the warrior in this matchup, but you have to be keeeenly aware of how a warrior can kill you. 90% of warriors in legend are playing the shieldmaiden/dr. boom deck. 10% are playing math/combo warrior with worgens. Know your damn numbers, and realise the tells: Inner rage or gnomish inventor = combo warrior. Dr. Boom = Standard warrior.

So here’s how this matchup goes. The warrior starts out with a fiery war axe, a cruel taskmaster, an armorsmith and an acolyte of pain. Don’t ask me how, but this is what happens. Your goal is to put down a giant or voidcaller on turn 4. At this point, the warrior will either have an answer, or he won’t. If he does, no problem – keep dropping things that require him to trade in his board or use hard removal. He has 4 answers in his deck (and ragnaros). You have more problems than he has answers.

Don’t worry about your life total. You have a ton of ways to gain health back. What he’s planning to do is brawl or establish a weapon, kill whatever survives, and them gromm you, assuming that once your health gets to 15, it will stay that way (the way most handlocks do). This is false. Ideally, you want to use argus to establish some pain-in-the-ass taunts (5/6 watchers are glorious here) that he can’t remove with his mid-game creatures, and doesn’t want to blow removal on. Throw down a mistress of pain behind those taunts. If it gets brawled, eh, no big deal, it’s a 2 mana 1/4. If it doesn’t get brawled, demonheart that @#$%er, kill something and start gaining your life back.

Current warrior decks are relatively big on burst. You have enough healing and late-game that you can actually put yourself out of range…and then, once safe, Jaraxxus to out-value them. Beware: You will frequently be a couple of points of damage from being lethaled. Take into account the possibility that the warrior runs whirlwinds, or Dr. Boom, or any other weird-ass sources of damage. Remember that, early-game, if you have giants and he has no immediately answer, you want to go face. Going face limits his answers to “Draw one of two executes in my deck”, while trying to clear his board gives him time to build up armor and draw one of his two shield slams.

Tech Choices The tech choices, as I see them in this deck, are: Twilight Drakes vs. Mountain Giants: Giants are significantly better vs. Control. Twilight drakes are better vs. Aggro. Neither are actually good versus Aggro. 2x Defender vs. 1x Defender, 1x Belcher: 2x Defender is probably better versus Aggro and control, worse against mid-range. People have a lot of ways to deal with belchers these days. MOAR DEMONS!!!: Floating watchers aren’t amazing – they’re just the best combination of reasonable voidcaller targets and reasonable regular drops that we have in our demon array. Everything else has drawbacks that are too significant.

Conclusion

This deck is super fun and viable at high levels. You have a capability for tempo swings far beyond that which a regular handlock is capable of, as well as enough threats to outlast any control deck. I know that I am personally still not playing this deck perfectly (I’ve got about 8 hours of playtime under my belt with it), and would say that about 50% of the games I lose are because I made a mistake. But I’m a control player and ultimately I prefer playing decks where it’s my brain that wins or loses the match rather than my opponent’s, or the draw.



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