June 9, 2015
Table of Contents
Weekly Legends: Justsaiyan’s Midrange Demonlock Deck
This write up, in connection with the video, is going to kick off my “Weekly Legends” deck techs, where I look at interesting Hearthstone legend decks.
I will explain how to play the deck, some card choices (I often deviate from the original list), replacements and, of course, mulligan strategy. Many people have long requested write-ups to go along with my videos, and as such that will be the new format. I am hoping that the following discussion on the deck, in combination with the video play-by-play, will give you a good idea of how the deck plays. So, thanks for reading, thanks for watching, and welcome to the first installment of “Weekly Legends”.
Demons? In a real deck? That works??? That’s right. Today, we are taking a break from Goblins (and Gnomes) to look at one of the more interesting (and fun) tribes that Hearthstone has to offer. The deck in question is a list by Justsaiyan, who used it to become the first player in February to hit Number 1 NA Legend.
The deck has a lot of early game to slow the pace, which allow more powerful mid and late-game cards to take over. It is extremely good against Mech-Mage, but can really beat any deck. The Warlock hero power is good enough to keep the cards flowing, and the overall high quality of the cards makes this a very strong choice for climbing the ladder.
When looking for a deck to cover, I want something that I could use to move up ranks. The metagame right now, despite some very strong decks, is in constant flux. I was experiencing many problems trying to nail down most of the meta, and couldn’t keep a flow going. Between the rise of Hunters (yes, they’re back), Mages, Paladins, Druids and the occasional Warrior, I was having a lot of trouble progressing. This deck changed that, and put me back on pace to hit legend this season.
I’ll admit, when I first started playing this deck I was very skeptical of this card. Abusive Sergeant is typically an aggro card, and I didn’t really see how it could fit into a late-game control list like this. However, it actually serves as a very strong niche card. Not only does Abusive Sergeant help with controlling the game by allowing your to trade away your Voidcallers, Haunted Creepers and Nerubian Eggs, but it also allows you to trigger larger Shadowflames, and can even put opposing five/six-power minions into Big Game Hunter range. That type of versatility is important for a deck such as this. It makes this card a great tech card, and its combo potential really gives the list an extra element.
For a deck like this to be good, every card must serve a certain purpose. Haunted Creeper serves multiple, and mimics the versatility that Abusive Sergeant brings. Any mid-range deck needs board control to keep the game going in their favor, and Creeper always makes sure you have something on the board against control. However, it is also very good against aggro. It creates multiple problems for decks like Mech-Mage, Hunter and Zoo, especially when paired with a buff. This deck only runs one Darkbomb in lieu of two Creepers, which shows you how good they are. It is even good to think of these as Darkbomb number two and three. They serve the same purpose, a way to slow down the early board, allowing you to move onto the latter stages of the game.
While this deck is very much a Demonlock deck, it only uses four demons. There are no for face damage, and you won’t find any shenanigans here. The only infernal denizens we call to our aid are Lord Jaraxxus, Mal'Ganis and two Voidcallers. This number is low for two reasons. One, by limiting the amount of demons in the deck, it allows more card slots to be dedicated to a stronger mid and late game. In addition, it also makes it so your Voidcallers will only drop in either another Voidcaller or the giant Demons. This eliminates the risk of putting something you don’t want into play. RNG is a part of Hearthstone, but by making moves like this you can turn that RNG in your favor.
This card will get silenced, that’s a reality you have to live with. Never holdback this card for fear of it being silenced, as having something on the board is better most of the time over nothing. However, if you are playing against a class or you are in a situation where it can be killed and you have no demons in hand, it is better just to hold onto it. Very rarely do I play Voidcaller without having backup for it (even if it is just another Voidcaller). Furthermore, it is always best to have a plan or a way to kill your Voidcaller shortly after playing it. This is a great way to mitigate the risk of it being silenced. Many games can be won by simply having a huge demon in play on an empty board, and planning ahead will give you the best opportunity to do that.
The Control-Killer of the Burning Legion’s power is pretty well known. He is amazing against control, and can serve as important life gain against more aggressive decks. I want to highlight what match-ups you want to play him out, and which ones you want to keep him in hand. You never want to risk dropping Jaraxxus into play off of a Voidcaller when playing against a class that can easily get rid of a large minion such as Paladin and Warrior. Classes like Priest or Druid are also opponents where the Battlecry of Jaraxxus is super powerful. As such, I will not play Voidcallers against those classes if Jaraxxus is in my hand. Rather, I will wait until I have the opportunity to use him to take over my hero. However, against aggressive classes (Mage, Shaman, Hunter and Zoo) there is no reason not to run out your Voidcallers when you have him in hand since you’ll be unlikely to either last until turn 9 or play him out safely.
Mal'Ganis is a card you want to be very careful with, even when dropping him into play off of a Voidcaller. While Lord Jaraxxus is the way you win most games, Mal’ganis is an absolute force that will crush your opponents into the ground. I have yet to lose a game where he went unanswered (hint: he makes you invincible!) In the current meta, there are very few ways to kill the Demon King, but you should always keep track of them. Count your opponent’s removal spells (Equality, Execute), and also try to get him onto empty boards as much as possible. Sometimes, he will be taken out by a Big Game Hunter, but you can also use Dr. Boom as bait to make sure that doesn’t happen. Silence, while annoying, is by no means an answer to Mal’ganis, and even something like Aldor Peacekeeper still allows you to life-tap for free.
The original version of this deck had Ragnaros the Firelord as yet another big finisher. I cut the Firelord for an extra Antique Healbot and never looked back. The reason for this is Ragnaros, while strong, is not necessary in this deck. He is very bad against all of the hyper-aggression on the ladder, and, due to the high quality of your threats, is not needed to deal with control. However, Antique Healbot is almost a necessity. The second bot has won me countless games, and can be a life saver in a plethora of situations. Between life-tap and things like Hellfire, you are going to take some damage. Having a second bot will give you a way to combat this self-harm. It also can push you over the top against aggro decks, and gives Lord Jaraxxus even more power. Jaraxxus can be scary to use in the meta (fifteen life just isn’t what it used to be), but if you can back him up with a Healbot or two, that risk greatly decreases.
Unlike decks such as Druid or Shaman, Sylvanas Windrunner serves almost exclusively as a combo card. Yes, you can play her in response to a big legend, or you can put her on a cluttered board, but those are last resort uses. This deck operates with two cards that allow you to use Sylvanas’ Deathrattle right away; Power Overwhelming and Shadowflame. Both of these cards kill her instantly, and, when set up correctly, will allow you to steal the minion you most want. Power Overwhelming, as it does not damage the target, is much better to play in response to Ragnaros the Firelord, Tirion Fordring or the like, but Shadowflame has the added bonus of giving you a board clear plus a large minion (Dr. Boom comes to mind). Think of her as a Mind Control more than a minion, and you will be able to use Sylvanas to her full potential.
Yes, the doctor is very good, and everyone knows it. However, I bring him up for another reason entirely. Dr. Boom is as powerful as ever on an empty board, and will straight up win some games by himself. Yet, unlike so many popular decks these days, he is actually not the strongest legend in the list – Mal'Ganis is. As a result, while Dr. Boom serves as a very good way to apply pressure and get board control, he is just as strong when acting as a distraction. Most decks run one Big Game Hunter, and if they use it to kill the doctor, it makes Mal’ganis just that much more game-ending. This was also the reason behind running Ragnaros the Firelord in this deck. In a meta filled with Big Game Hunters, the only real way to deal with them is by giving them more targets than they can handle. While I do not think Ragnaros is necessary for the current meta, giving Mal’ganis a little protection most definitely is.
Below, I will cover five of the most prevalent matchups that I currently experience on ladder. This section will break down cards to look for against each class, the best way to play the matches, and how to think during each game.
Public enemy number one in the current meta, Mech Mage is a deck that lives on the precipice of board control. As such, you want to try to do what you can to make sure they don’t have minions. Look for your removal here, and always be aware of their Mech combos. Goblin Blastmage and Tinkertown Technician get much worse when they don’t get value off their Battlecry, and your early game can really slow down their plays. Abusive Sergeant is a great keep here when you have any early minion. You want to always mulligan for early plays such as Haunted Creeper, Zombie Chow and Darkbomb. If you have the coin, it is also good to keep Imp-losion if you have a play that comes before it. This match is usually won in the first few turns, never forget that.
Oh yes my friends, it doesn’t matter how many nerfs happen or how many times they get knocked down, Hunter is going to get back up. Maybe it isn’t as scary as it once was (I am of course talking about the Buzzard/Hounds combo), but it still packs a punch. These days, the deck goes all face, using Knife Juggler, Unleash the Hounds, Wolfrider and Arcane Golem to get your life to zero as fast as possible. The rule here, as it has always been, is to stay alive at all costs. Just like with Mech Mage, you want early plays, and, because of both Haunted Creeper and Mad Scientist, Ironbeak Owl is a must keep. Imp-losion is a great card against Mech Mage, clogging up the board and killing more than one minion, but it can be dangerous against Hunter due to the hounds. You want to mulligan away everything that costs more than three, but look for ways to stay alive. Try to find both Antique Healbots as well as your removal, and always know when to stop tapping.
Paladin (Control and Mid-Range)
This is one of the matches where you become control. Paladin is a waiting game, and you want to stretch your opponent as thin as possible. Sylvanas Windrunner/Power Overwhelming is one of the best tools you have here, and you should always use the combo to steal something like Tirion Fordring. This match almost always comes down to you trying to find a window where you can play Lord Jaraxxus. Once you play Jaraxxus and have the board, the game is almost always over. Paladin, for all of its power, has very little burst, which makes it hard for them to deal with the Lord of the Burning Legion. Paladin’s power mostly come through their board clears, so play around them. Bait out Aldor Peacekeeper and Equality until you land something that sticks. Paladin can build some synergy and burst potential with Quartermaster, so you should always clear out their 1/1’s when you can. Here, it’s all about Jaraxxus. Paladin is good, but it is not equipped to deal with a constant string of Infernals.
Along with Hunter and Mage, the new iteration of Rogue is a scary deck that cares very little about opponent interaction. As such, you have to make them care. This deck is powerful, just as any version of miracle has been, due to their endless well of removal and access to card draw. However, Rogue does have a hard time when their focus is on the board, or when they don’t have minions to tempo with. Here, you simply want to try and look for threats. If the games goes late enough, due to big minions and strong healing, you will almost always win. Getting there is hard, but things like Nerubian Egg and Haunted Creeper do a very nice job of stopping AOE. Here, Lord Jaraxxus should always be a minion, as fifteen life is really too low to try and stay alive with things like Blade Flurry and Eviscerate running around. While healing is important, keeping their minions off the board while using your own minions to eat removal, is the most crucial element here.
The final match-up I will cover, Control Warrior, plays very similarly to Paladin. They have access to two of the best removal spells in the game (Shield Slam and Execute) and those give them great ways to get rid of both Mal'Ganis and Dr. Boom. However, they are very poorly equipped, just like Paladin, at getting rid of a constant slew of 6/6 demons. Lord Jaraxxus is the only way you are going to realistically win this game (sometimes an unanswered boom) and you never want to risk dropping him into play. Just use your removal on their big minions, and force things like Brawl on bad boards. Stretching their resources thin is a great way to enable Jaraxxus to take over the game. Of course, you always want to be aware of the Grommash Hellscream combo. To do so, always try to stay above 12 life, and when you become Jaraxxus, make sure you won’t take damage below 12 the following turn. Ironbeak Owl is a very good keep here due to its ability to shut down Acolyte of Pain. Nerubian Egg is also a great way to fight against things like Brawl or weapons.
While I also go over a mulligan guide in the video, I get asked for these so often, I thought I would put them in two places. The general rule of this deck is, stick to your curve. Zombie Chow, while traditionally an anti-aggro card, is good against almost every deck. It puts some early pressure on Druid, kills Silver Hand Recruits, and just shuts down early plays from Mage and Hunter. You want to find a good way to constantly stay ahead on board, and this is usually done through incremental value gleaned from cards like Haunted Creeper and Nerubian Egg. Early removal (Darkbomb, Imp-losion) also help you do this.
One big point of mulliganing is, you never want to try to keep “the combo”. This is a late mid-range/control deck, not a combo deck. Voidcaller is a fine keep against slower mid-range decks such as Druid or Warrior, but it’s often much too slow against aggro. In the same vein, Lord Jaraxxus and Mal'Ganis should also never be kept, Voidcaller or not. Rather, you want to draw them naturally throughout the game.
Shadowflame should never be kept, and Power Overwhelming/Abusive Sergeant should only be in your hand if you have an early egg. Hellfire is a must keep against Mage and Hunter, especially if you have the coin. Overall, the general rule is to look for early minions, and then try to use the power of life-tap to get to the bigger cards in this deck. Removal is very good against aggro, but I usually mulligan it away (except Mortal Coil against Paladin) when playing slower control decks. One last piece of advice – always keep Ironbeak Owl against Hunter and Warrior to deal with Acolyte of Pain and Mad Scientist. It should not be kept against any other deck.
As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy the new series/format. That was the first week of “Weekly Legends” and more decks will follow. If you have any feedback on the deck, cards or the new format, let me know. Thanks again and, until next time, may your Voidcaller always drop Mal’ganis.