Starting Stone #8:
Above Average Cards
Below Average Cards
Your soul shall suffer! Assuming you don't sacrifice yourself to the demons of the Burning Legion. Fear not, however, for Gul'Dan is a mighty Warlock and with his help, you too shall conquer the demons and your opponents. Your desire for sacrifices will enhance your play as you inflict damage to yourself to draw more cards.
In this next installment of Starting Stone, we have categorized and highlighted the best Warlock cards, decks, and play styles to help you on your merry way to becoming a Legendary Warlock.
Disclaimer: As the meta game is ever evolving, the decks and cards here represent their strengths in the current meta game. As such there may be cards included to account for these nuances.
Warlocks are currently one of the strongest class due to its Hero Power and diverse play styles. Warlock's Hero Power -- Life Tap -- allows a Warlock player to choose to draw two cards per turn for a measly two life and mana. This single ability opens the option for Warlocks to play both aggressive decks with low mana curves and giants Warlock or more commonly known as "Handlock". Due to the flexibility of the Hero Power, a hidden strength of Warlock decks are the uncertainty your opponent faces as he selects his starting hand.
Beyond Warlock's Hero Power, a common theme of the Warlock class cards is to have an additional cost to playing the card on top of its mana cost. These additional costs are offset by a lowered mana cost when compared with cards of similar power.
1. SoulfireFour damage for no mana! Soulfire is one of the best cards at gaining tempo advantage in the game. For the price of one additional card, you gain the ability to greatly change the state of the board. Soulfire can also be used in sequence with other cards to an deal unexpected burst damage and kill your opponent.
The ideal time to use Soulfire is when you have no other cards in your hand. This does not mean, however, that you should hold Soulfire until you have no other cards. If you have a decent threat to target -- and you will not be guaranteed to discard a critical card -- then use Soulfire. One of the worst situations is when you have two Soulfires in your hand and nothing else.
2. Flame ImpThe strongest one mana minion in the game in terms of stat value. At the cost of three damage to yourself, you get a vanilla 3/2 minion on your first turn. Flame Imp is at its strongest in the early game and the strongest opening -- Innervate nonsense aside -- in the game is to play two Flame Imps with a Coin on turn one.
Flame Imp's strength decreases as the match progresses. It may also become a burden if you start to lose life and can not safely cast Flame Imp without running the risk of dying. These drawbacks, however, are minor compared to the strength that Flame Imp brings to the early game.
Since Warlocks will often run multiple one mana minions, it can be difficult to know which minion to play. In most situations, Flame Imp is the ideal one mana minion to play from all your options and Voidwalker being the second. There are situations, such as playing against a Rogue, where Voidwalker may be better.
4. DoomguardOn paper, five mana for a 5/7 charge that costs three cards is very questionable for the cost. On a closer examination, however, you begin to realize that Doomguard is a tempo card which brings the power of essentially a seven or eight mana minion out on turn five. When played in an aggressive Warlock deck, it will often discard one or even no cards as you play out your hand.
Since Doomguard is quite tanky, unlike most other cards in aggressive warlock decks, it is viable to have Doomguard take out a potential threat rather than hitting your opponent for five damage.
Above Average Cards
Power Overwhelming allows you to hold significant burst damage in your hand to be unleashed with a charge minion. When played with cards such as Leeroy Jenkins, the potential burst with two Power Overwhelming is a staggering fourteen damage or eighteen with a Soulfire.
Power Overwhelming can also be used in conjunction with Shadowflame and Void Terror. When combined with Shadowflame, it turns any small minion into a huge board clear.
6. Mortal CoilEnjoy cleaning up those pesky minions with one Health? Well Mortal Coil is here to save the day with value to spare. This s one of the most efficient cards available to Warlocks. Mortal Coil will not only clean up your target, but give you a card back and all for one mana.
Whilst it is preferable to use Mortal Coil as a finisher to kill a minion, you can also consider using Mortal Coil to pop a Divine Shield you would otherwise not be able to efficiently trade with.
Lord Jaraxxus' introduction is a bit long winded, but it is well worth it for all the cool new emotes and abilities. Lord Jaraxxus' ability is unique in the game: no other card will replace your hero. Jaraxxus will also set your maximum Health to 15 regardless of your current health, equip a 3/8 weapon, and replace your hero ability with two mana 6/6 Infernal minions!
Despite Jaraxxus' obvious strenghths, Jaraxxus costs nine mana and quite often, you do not survive until turn nine against aggression. As Jaraxxus sets the maximum health at 15, you will also struggle to play any Molten Giants remaining in your hand.
8. HellfireCheap board clears in the game are a premium and Hellfire is no different. Being able to deal three damage to all minions for only four mana makes it one of the most efficient board clears. Beyond the obvious strengths of Hellfire, it can also be used to lower your own Health to allow Molten Giants to be played.
Despite the strengths, since Hellfire deals damage to all characters, it is primarily a tool used to equalize a game as you will often kill your own minions. In aggressive Warlock decks, Hellfire can be used when you are behind on the board state to level the playing field.
9. Siphon SoulSiphon Soul is a hard removal spell available to Warlocks. At six mana, it is the most expensive single card removal in the game. That said, it fits Warlocks perfectly. Siphon Soul allows Warlocks to stabilize their Health and the opponents board all in one card. It is primarily used in control Warlock decks after taking considerable damage in the early game to stabilize.
Shadowflame is an interesting card. On its own it has no effect, but i can be combined with a myriad of cards to create the ultimate board wipe. On top of this, Shadowflame allows you the flexibility of choosing how much damage you want based off your opponents board. Just don't forget to attack your opponent first (if you can) before casting Shadowflame on a minion.
A common play is to cast a charge minion (in particular Leeroy Jenkins), attack your opponent or a high toughness minion and then casting Shadowflame. Similarly, you can use Power Overwhelming to make even the smallest minion large enough for a powerful board wipe.
Below Average Cards
11. Shadow BoltThree mana for four damage would be extremely good if it wasn't for the fact that Shadow Bolt can only target minions. As a result, Shadowbolt is relegated to being simply being below average. With two Soulfire already in every Warlock deck, it is rare to find a need for a third card that deals four damage.
Shadowbolt did make appearances in Control Warlock decks before the Nat Pagle nerf to deal with it efficiently in the early game without sacrificing cards. It has recently fallen out of favor.
12. Pit LordThe Yeti Slayer! A four mana 5/6 takes control of the board extremely well: if only it didn't cost five health. The five health cost means that Pit Lord can only really be used on curve or as a "win more" card. Beyond these two scenarios, a Warlocks life total will typically fall too low to safely use Pit Lord.
Since every aggressive Warlock deck will inevitably run two Flame Imps, it is prudent to only run one copy of Pit lord, if any at all.
13. DemonfireDemonfire is a card with a lot of potential. It offers the flexibility of +2/+2 to a friendly Demon or two damage to any minion. While the buff portion is slightly weaker than the Druid card Mark of the Wild, Warlocks have significantly better early game targets which boost the card's strength.
Currently, however, the only true targets for Demonfire is Flame Imp and Voidwalker and the lack of targets is the reason it is rated this low. If and when Blizzard introduces more Demons to the Warlock arsenal that are commonly used, Demonfire will be used more often. The two damage is also much less relevant in context of a Warlock's existing removal suite.
14. Dread InfernalDread Infernal is a six mana 6/6 with a mediocre ability and as such finds itself hard pressed to find a slot in any Warlock deck. When you consider the card in a vacuum, Dread Infernal comes off fairly decently: he is a strong body and an ability that is useful. The problem lies in that it does not fit either of the Warlock deck archetypes.
In an aggressive deck, you are looking to control the board and Dread Infernal would end up damaging your own minions. There are also better options for aggressive six drops such as Argent Commander. In control decks, you are looking to stabilize at six mana. The one damage board clears will typically not remove many minions and a 6/6 body is very mediocre in a deck full of giants.
15. Void TerrorVoid Terror has to be an interesting three drop to be sure. It essentially absorbs the minions adjacent to it and becomes a powerful monster. On it's own, this typically leaves behind a weaker board because it is harder to remove multiple minions than it is to remove a large minion. Any form of direct hard removal and silence will essentially trade two for one or even three for one.
Void Terror's ability however does have synergy with Power Overwhelming. You can cast Power Overwhelming on a minion, attack, and then use Void Terror to gain all those juicy stats.
16. Blood ImpOnce upon a time, Blood Imp was one of the most broken cards in the game. Then Blizzard decided that it was not fun and hit Blood Imp with the nerf bat. It's ability to add one health is nice, however, an 0/1 body ensures that there is no reason to play this over a Young Priestess.
If the Blood Imp was raised back to 1/1, it may actually replace Young Priestess since the Stealth is far more valuable and being able to do one damage without any buffs is quite useful.
17. Drain LifeDrain Life is extremely underwhelming and expensive for its ability. To break it down, two damage typically costs one mana while two life is one mana at best. Even if Drain Life was two mana, it would still be weak since Warlocks have better removal spells and Demonfire is a much more versatile card. If Drain Life was three damage and three health heal, it would be potentially viable as a weak direct damage spell to supplement Soulfire.
18. Twisting NetherOne of the coolest animations in the game. Sadly even that is not enough to bring Twisting Nether into use. The biggest problem with Twisting Nether is its mana cost; at eight mana, you typically will have no follow up plays and your opponent will get to set the tempo on an empty board. If Twisting Nether's mana cost was reduced,or it's ability only affected your opponents minions but for ten mana, it would have potential uses. As it is you would only play it now to watch the pretty animation.
19. Summoning PortalA really powerful ability accompanied by an extremely weak 0/4 body. The main problem with Summoning Portal, however, is its four mana cost. It would be too slow in an aggressive Warlock deck and cannot be played onto a near empty board in control Warlock. It is also highly unlikely that it will survive the turn it is played, meaning that you will need to play Summoning Portal in conjunction with many other minions. Summoning Portal does have a fun factor involved and can be used in non serious decks to bring bigger minions out early.
20. Bane of DoomBane of Doom is actually a very good tempo card in theory. Breaking it's ability down it would equate to one mana for two damage and four mana for the bonus demon. The problem lies in the demons it can summon: Blood Imp, Voidwalker, and Flame Imp are all subpar; Succubus and Felguard are in line with the cost; and Dread Infernal is a value summon. This means that Bane of Doom has a 50% chance to not be worth its value, 33% chance to be average and 17% chance to be above average. Not very good odds if you ask me. If Bane of Doom was able to summon all Demons then it would possibly be a playable card; Illidan is a Demon!
21. FelguardFelguard is essentially a Tazdingo that you can play a turn earlier. While it sounds great, it will set you behind in your mana curve and slow your ability to empty your hand. Essentially you would have lost one mana crystal for every turn until turn 11. That is a hefty price for a Tazdingo which comes out one turn earlier. It further complicates things when you consider that Tazdingo does not fit the Warlock deck themes. If this card is to see any play, it would need to be buffed significantly.
22. Sense DemonsA potentially strong card to fish for Demons in your deck. Modern Warlocks typically don't play enough Demons to warrant this. When stronger Demons find their way into the game, this could be useful in Control type decks that use Demons.
23. CorruptionIf you are in a frame of mind to remove a minion, you would like it removed immediately. Giving your opponent options to keep it alive through silence, return it to his/her hand, or just suicide the minion for damage is too many options. As such, there is no feasible way to use Corruption without your opponent having an opportunity to counter the play.
24. SuccubusA good card concept made awful by the stat distribution. If Succubus was simply a 3/4 instead of a 4/3, it would actually be viable since aggressive Warlocks do not value card advantage. As a 4/3 however, it dies to every 3/2 and a huge variety of spells that deal three damage.
25. Sacrificial PactIf there were more Demons that Warlocks played, this would potentially have a use. Most Warlocks, unfortunately, play very few Demons and Health gain is not high on the priority list for the aggressive Warlocks that do play Demons. It should be noted, however, that in a mirror match it is an extremely powerful removal card -- it can even one shot your opponent when he plays Lord Jaraxxus -- but outside of this scenario, it is an utterly useless card.
Now that we have familiarized ourselves with all the Warlock cards, lets move on to building decks. The first thing you may notice when you look at our rating is that there are a staggering amount of cards that are below average. To complicate things further, many of the "good" cards can only fit one of two deck archetypes, either control or aggressive. This leaves very few cards for each deck archetype from the available pool of Warlock cards so instead of building our decks based upon synergy and themes behind class cards, we will instead build decks based around the Warlock Hero Power.
Aggressive decks typically need a healthy amount of low mana cost minions to be aggressive from the get go but also require some mid game threats or the deck will fall behind in the mid to late game. With Warlock however, you can skip some of the mid to late game finishers and focus exclusively on early game minions utilizing Life Tap to remain relevant in the late game. Control Warlocks are the opposite to their aggressive counterpart favoring early Life Taps to draw into their big threats early.
Due to the Ultimate Warlock 1 being extremely cheap to build, we will be skipping the Budget deck for Warlocks.
The Free Warlock deck is built with basic cards only to allow you to hit the ground running immediately. With that being said however, it is highly recommended to save up a little instead and jump straight to decks that resemble the ultimate decks as they are already extremely cheap. In addition, the Warlock free deck is probably one of the worst free decks in the game, if not THE worst.
This Free deck on its own plays similarly to many other Free decks, focusing on value minions and board control. The deck can also attempt to grind out your opponents leveraging Life Tap to provide multiple minions late game when both players are top decking.
Ultimate Deck v1
This Warlock deck is a gold standard you can measure all other aggressive decks against. You will need to ask yourself how quickly you can deal damage, how durable your threats are, and how easily you can clear the board. Understanding these fundamentals will increase your win percentage as an aggro player. You will be able to appropriately discern when it is too costly to remove a minion from the board or when you should kill an Ancient Watcher to play around Shadowflame.
The strengths of this particular deck are that the minions themselves are very durable and do not require you to over commit in order to threaten your opponent. This style allows you to better play around board wipe effects such as Consecrate, Shadowflame, and Lightning Storm while still maintaining a fast clock. This type of deck is typically slower than most aggressive decks and allows for more flexible board control. To compensate, you have strong mid game finishers to get the job done in the form of Leeroy Jenkins and Doomguard. Your biggest worry will typically be efficient threats which answer multiple minions over the course of the game: Chillwind Yeti, Deadly Poison, and Feral Spirit for example. This is why Voidwalker and Shieldbearer are in this list, the more time and resources they expend to get to your minions, the less time and resources they have to actually deal with them.
Note: Do not be afraid to cast Soulfire on an early threat. Sometimes removing a turn three Unbound Elemental can generate enough tempo to allow you to win the game and make cards such as Lightning Bolt and buff effects much worse against you.
Ultimate Deck v2
“MRLGRLRGRGRLLRLRL” the majestic shout of the Murlocs, one that makes many eyes fill with tears and hearts with terror. By choosing this deck you have chosen to forgo all types of board control in favor of hyper aggression. Murlocks, as the deck has been dubbed, is an aggressive snowball deck where no one card on its own is a particularly big threat. Cards such as Murloc Raider, Murloc Tidecaller, and Murloc Tidehunter on their own they are particularly poor and die to most Hero Powers; however, when synergized appropriately with cards like Coldlight Seer, Grimscale Oracle, or Murloc Warleader they create an extremely potent threat with the potential to be stronger and more durable than a Flame Imp!
This type of effect is called a “snowball” effect. Much like a snowball rolling down a hill, the minions become a devastating boulder like force that can crush everything in their path. If your minions are not dealt with early and often it will be lights out for your opponent. We can attribute this effect to the synergy between the Murlocs in the deck and their ability to mesh well with the early game of Warlock. Flame Imp, Soulfire and Voidwalker still have a niche in this deck as they promote a strong early game on their own and will often bait out early removal to insure the survival of your Murloc hoard. Much like Ultimate Deck v1, you have a similar game plan but sacrifice strong finishers for the chance to synergize your Murlocs together. As such, you should do your best to draw out removal onto non-Murloc minions and try to play Merlocs the turn before you know you will be playing a card like Murloc Warleader or Coldlight Seer to maximize their value. Remember you have limited Battlecry buff effects in your deck so you should use them to their full potential for extremely potent effects.
Ultimate Deck v3
On the other side of the spectrum, we see the flexibility of Warlock as review a very powerful control deck. This is a giants theme deck more affectionately known as “Handlock”. This deck exploits Life Tap in order to power out devastating threats in the form of a turn four Mountain Giants or 4/9 Twilight Drakes. These monsters dominate an early board and are typically very difficult to deal with outside of cards like Polymorph and Hex. These Giants are coupled with Ancient Watchers and various Taunt giving minions to create walls in order to protect you and force your opponents into over-extending into your various board clearing spells. The deck also plays a small amount of life gain in the form of Lord Jaraxxus, Alexstrasza, and Earthen Ring Farseers to ease the burden of your constant life loss.
A typical Handlock will start the early turns of the game by simply using their Life Tap ability in order to set up for turn four, where most of their early threats are played. By abusing Life Tap early, when minions are less powerful and therefore less threatening, control Warlocks are better able to out card advantage their opponents while not ceding much tempo in a given match. Typically all early threats can be dealt with by simply casting Hellfire or Shadowflaming an Earthen Ring Farseer or Ancient Watcher. Once these Warlocks have gotten themselves to around turn six they have hard removal in the form of Siphon Soul, which in addition to removing stronger threats gains them crucial health points. They will eventually finish out the game with Giants and other difficult to deal with threats while keeping a card advantage lead on their opponent through use of their Hero Power. This version of the deck also contains a powerful one turn kill by using the combo Leeroy Jenkins + Power Overwhelming + Faceless Manipulator to deal twenty points of damage in a single turn.
The flexibility of Warlock is truly unmatched and in a diverse metagame can be extremely advantageous and rewarding to play. Not only are you set up with a variety of removal and threats to play against any deck, but you also have the advantage of the large birth of vastly different Warlock archetypes. This means your opponents will have to keep bad cards in their opening hands because both aggressive and control Warlock decks are viable. Early game removal means nothing to giants and Murlocs don't care about Ragnaros. Warlock continues to be an unmatched adversary on the field of battle and is a great choice for use in ladder play. Plus with the whole Burning Legion behind you, how could you possibly lose?