Mill Warlock by Sjoesie
Hello, I’m Sjoesie, a Belgian Hearthstone player and deckbuilder playing for the team Sector One. After the release of the new expansion KoFT, I’ve been testing around with a lot of the cool new concepts and combinations (a special thanks to the awesome Death Knight card type, which causes a lot of late game decks to be viable). One of the cards I initially loved when the expansion came out was our little vampiric river crocolisk: Gnomeferatu . It took almost one month into the expansion to finally find a good, cozy place for her in which her abilities really shine: Mill Warlock.
This deck is in its current form not a Tier 1 deck or anywhere close to it. It has a couple of weaknesses that are hard to solve with the current Warlock cards. However, this deck has an overall decent win rate and makes up for its poor win rate versus a couple of decks by its great win rate versus a lot of others. One deck it does great against is the top of the current S-tier: Jade druid.
- 2Drain Soul2
- 5Despicable Dreadlord2
- 6Siphon Soul2
- 7Abyssal Enforcer2
- 8Twisting Nether2
- 9Lord Jaraxxus1
- 10Bloodreaver Gul'dan1
- 1Mistress of Mixtures2
- 2Tainted Zealot1
- 3Coldlight Oracle2
- 3Gluttonous Ooze1
- 3Stonehill Defender2
- 4Prince Valanar1
- 6Skulking Geist1
The general idea of the deck is, as the name implies, to mill your opponents. This means you want to make them overdraw and discard a lot of cards, so you will ultimately win the game in fatigue. Of course this is not the only plan of this deck, but against most (slower) decks, this plan is what you should be going for.
But how does a milling strategy work in Warlock, especially combined with their conflicting hero power? The answer lies not in this deck, but rather in other decks. Other decks play quite some cards with drawing effects, whereas Warlocks don’t have to do this because of their hero power. Often this results in other decks drawing as much, or even more, than the Warlock does. Combined with the gnomeferatus, which destroy at least two extra cards from your opponent’s deck, your opponents will often end up in fatigue faster than you. Also, the Warlock Death Knight has arguably the best hero power in the lategame control matches, which gives you a huge edge even if you both hit fatigue at the same time.
To support this idea, this deck runs a lot of removal. Knowing when and how to remove your opponent’s board is very important! This means you’ll need to have a good understanding of how your opponent’s deck works and make your decisions based on that.
The gameplay section below is mostly aimed at slower matchups and a general idea of the flow of the deck. There will be a separate aggro section at the bottom.
EARLY GAME (TURN 1 – 4)
In the early game, you will often just tap a couple of times, while trying to fit in your one drops in your curve (turn 1 and 3). Against more midrange decks (ex murloc paladin), you should continuously be trying to look for a good Defile clear, or try to keep them away from getting the board very early on with doomsayers. You generally do not play Coldlight Oracle oracles or Gnomeferatu in this phase.
MID GAME (TURN 5 – 9)
Starting with this phase, there will be happening a lot. Generally, you are looking to:
- Drop your demons, so you can get them back later with Bloodreaver Gul'dan. Despicable Dreadlord is a minion that you can just drop on curve, even if it doesn’t clear anything. I often like to keep Abyssal Enforcer as an AOE removal option, however, you can also play it to pressure your opponent.
- Keep yourself healthy. More aggressive decks can put a lot of pressure on you, and this deck has the tools to heal yourself back up with the help of Prince Valanar, Mistress of Mixtures, Siphon Soul, Drain Soul etc. Try to imagine how much burst your opponent can possibly do, and keep your health total above that amount. However, don’t be afraid to use the cards above even if you’re at 30 health, since clearing your opponent’s dangerous threats is more important that getting that extra health!
- Mill your opponent. This is the phase where a lot of decks have drawn (or start drawing) a lot of cards, so you can make use of your Coldlight Oracle to make them overdraw. If you have Gul’dan already in hand, sometimes it’s even fine to overdraw yourself if you overdraw your opponent. Especially against more combo heavy lists like Razakus Priest and quest mage, burning one card doesn’t matter if you have the possibility to destroy their whole game plan with it.
- Clear dangerous threats and big boards. Defile, Siphon Soul, Twisting Nether and Abyssal Enforcer are great tools that help you with this. Contrary to other mill decks, this deck can actually build a decent board. Trading efficiently is important! Always keep Despicable Dreadlord ‘s effect in mind when trading, and try to figure out how to use the spells in your hand in combination with the minions on the board. Often multiple clears are possible, so you have to figure out which one is the most valuable.
- Tap into your answers if you don’t have them yet. Especially in slower turns, you can tap to get a card advantage. This deck is more control based than any other mill decks (will act more like a fatigue deck in that sense), so having your answers ready beforehand, is very important.
LATE GAME (TURN 10+)
In this phase, you will be looking for a good opportunity to play Bloodreaver Gul'dan. Playing it early on gives you a lot of control and healing with the new hero power, so it’s recommended you play it as soon as possible. Always keep track of which friendly demons have died this game, so you have a clear view of what you will get when you play your death knight. Don’t forget to calculate the respawning Despicable Dreadlord damage if your opponent has a board, because they can clear a lot of stuff.
Aggro decks are one of the most difficult ones to beat with this deck, and your win rate can improve or decrease a lot by the sort of build you’re running. Against decks like aggro druid or pirate warrior, you are generally trying to keep their board clear with cards like Defile, Drain Soul and your early game minions. This deck is really unfavored versus aggro because it doesn’t have great early minions to deal with them, as well as the lack of a decent clear effect like Hellfire. I will give a few examples of additional tech cards in the Cards section, which can make this matchup a lot better.
STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES
Great late game with the help of Bloodreaver Gul'dan. This is probably one of, if not the best, control based late game Death Knight in the game. Consequently, it has great matchups versus other control decks.
Is able to interrupt combos with the milling strategy. This is not insignificant since Razakus Priest is one of the decks that rely on their combos, and milling one of those cards will instantly win you the game.
Likewise, the milling strategy makes you great versus decks that draw a lot. I’m mainly looking at the Jade Druid matchup here, where you can often draw two cards while burning two of theirs.
Is great versus mid range token decks because of the huge amount of mid game aoe clears.
Good Matchups: Control Paladin, Control Mage, Jade Druid, Token Shaman, Midrange Paladin
The milling cards are horrible versus very aggressive decks.
Relies quite a bit on the Death Knight, so you can lose good matchups if your Death Knight is one of the last cards in your deck.
Big removal spells cost a lot of mana. This means it’s very hard to deal with a Bittertide Hydra for example.
No great taunts to block damage. It’s very hard to stop charging minions and weapons from going face.
Bad Matchups: Tempo mage, Aggro Druid, Pirate Warrior
The cards you want to keep with this deck, differ quite a bit per matchup. In general, versus slower matchups you want to keep Bloodreaver Gul'dan and throw away the board clear, while it’s the reverse for faster decks. Examples of decks you keep Gul’dan against are Razakus Priest, Control Paladin and Control Mage. Examples of decks you keep board clear against, are Token Shaman, Murloc Paladin etc.
Note: “Possibly” means you can both keep it and throw it away. Often these cards aren’t necessary to have early in the matchup, but can be convenient in specific situations.
Versus Priest: Bloodreaver Gul'dan, possibly Doomsayer. You really want to search for your Death Knight, since it’s your win condition versus priests in the late game. Being able to play your Death Knight before them gives you a huge advantage, and you can actually outheal their continuous hero powers with the amazing heal it provides.
Versus Warlock: Doomsayer, possibly cards like Siphon Soul and Bloodreaver Gul'dan. Zoolock isn’t really a thing at this point, so you should be expecting Handlock. Siphon Soul helps dealing with the midgame big minions, whereas Doomsayer can stall them a lot.
Versus Hunter: Doomsayer, Voidwalker, Defile, Mistress of Mixtures, possibly Drain Soul. This matchup is all about being able to clear the early game board, thus you will be looking for your early clears and minions.
Versus Shaman: Doomsayer, Voidwalker, Defile, Mistress of Mixtures. Dealing with their board early on will give you more space and time to draw into your mid-late game clears such as Abyssal Enforcer , Despicable Dreadlord and Twisting Nether.
Versus Warrior: Doomsayer, Voidwalker, Defile, Mistress of Mixtures, Gluttonous Ooze. You have to cross fingers they don’t god curve you, and keep dealing with their threats. If you can get the board midgame, you should be fine.
Versus Mage: Bloodreaver Gul'dan, possibly Doomsayer. You keep Doomsayer if you don’t know which archetype you’re facing (burn, control, quest) because it’s great versus an early Mana Wyrm. Gul’dan is great versus slower mages, and versus quest mage you have time to draw into your Coldlight Oracle and Gnomeferatu.
One of the most interesting parts of this archetype, is the amount of variable card slots. This could mean the core of this deck works well with any decent support, or it could mean there’s still a good, unexplored version. I will split this section up in a couple of parts in a way that similar cards are in the same section.
These minions are the core of the milling strategy of this deck. With Gnomeferatu you can make up for the early hero powers, even if your opponent didn’t draw cards. It can also discard important cards in your opponent’s deck (mainly looking at Razakus Priest and Quest Mage in the current meta), plus it might give you valuable information. Coldlight Oracle is great in the current meta because there’s a ton of decks that are drawing a lot of cards, especially the most popular ones like Jade Druid and Razakus Priest. Letting them overdraw one of their key cards can instantly win you the game. Even if they don’t discard key cards, you often get free draw. It can also help you to search for answers after you’ve played Bloodreaver Gul'dan, since you lose your card draw at that point.
Playing the demon package is very comfortable in Warlock, since it includes early game, mid game clear and late game. There’s no reason not to play it, especially for a deck that wants to survive as long as possible.
EARLY REMOVAL CARDS
Can be really nice to clear some specific minions like Vicious Fledgling and Murloc Warleader. Rather useless versus slower decks though. Good inclusion if you want to tech more towards aggro/midrange decks.
Same reasoning as shadow bolt, but only a decent inclusion versus aggro. You don’t want to play this versus decks you want to use Skulking Geist against, since you will destroy your own mortal coils as well.
Can be included if you face a ton of Aggro Druids. While this card does nothing against control, it can make the very aggressive matchups winnable. It’s not a bad card versus more board-centered decks like Murloc Paladin and Token Shaman either.
This is a great card versus board oriented decks, and can be included in the deck if you’re playing a version different from the Prince Valanar one.
HEALING AND STALL
This is almost an auto-include in this deck, but if you find another way of healing yourself (for example the Corpsetaker build I will elaborate later on), you could replace one or both of these.
This is also a card on the verge of being an auto-include, but can be replaced if you decide to build your deck differently (for example with 2 Corrupting Mist).
Stonehill Defender, which gives two taunts for the price of one card, is better towards the mid-late game, while Tar Creeper is better versus aggressive decks. This deck doesn’t run many taunts, so including one of these will make it easier to stall your opponent and possibly set up for a big clear.
Valanar is a very strange card. On one hand the minion looks very weak and it denies you from playing any other four mana cards. On the other hand, its heal can help a lot, especially if left untouched. If Warlock had better healing cards, this minion wouldn’t even be considered, but in the current state of the class it’s one of the better heals you can get. If you don’t like this card, there will be an separate section at the end of the Card Section which explores a few alternative options.
MID AND LATE GAME OPTIONS
In short, this means it’s horrible to play Lord Jaraxxus after Bloodreaver Gul'dan, but it might be fine to do the reverse if you are playing against a deck that doesn’t run much damage. The upside of playing Lord Jaraxxus before Bloodreaver Gul'dan, is the threatening hero power, which also come back with your Death Knight’s battlecry.
However, all this is not the main reason why we might include Lord Jaraxxus in this deck. Especially if you don’t draw your Death Knight, often you need access to an emergency heal, especially versus aggro/midrange decks. Bringing your health total up to 15 can sometimes make the difference between a loss and a win. Ever since old times, there’s always been people that prefer Alexstrasza over Lord Jaraxxus because of the instant body it provides, and especially in because of the annoying interaction with Bloodreaver Gul'dan, I like Alexstrasza over Lord Jaraxxus. Note that I play Lord Jaraxxus in my original list, in my more recent lists I substituted him for Alexstrasza.
-[Medivh, the Guardian]
I don’t think this is a great minion in this deck, because there’s no need for an additional late game threat. It has to be noted, however, that the card has some good synergy with Siphon Soul and especially Twisting Nether. Could be considered if you only face control decks and if you feel you need another tool to beat those.
Same reasoning as Medivh, with the difference that this is a taunt (and thus can be used to block some damage). Decent inclusion if you want another late game threat.
Decent mid game body, good effect for a milling strategy and the pack you’re getting from it, can save you in a game where you’re short on removals. However, the pack is usually stuck in your hand until the very late game, you might draw it instead of a removal card you need, and there’s no guarantee its contents are game breaking. Despite the cons, it could definitely be an inclusion in the deck if you’re often losing because of fatigue or being out of cards. Definitely one of the better more control based tech cards.
Early game value minion. Horrible versus aggro, can go all directions versus midrange and control. I don’t like the huge randomness of the card in combination with the small, useless body, so I prefer Stonehill Defender over this.
Has a good synergy with Defile and can get rid of annoying buff effects without having to spend a Siphon Soul. Because of the first reason, this card is always superior to Spellbreaker in this list. Great card to consider if you’re in need of silences.
Weapon removal is always nice versus weapon classes. Also counters [Medivh, the Guardian].
Anti pirate tech. You could play this if you keep queueing into Pirate Warrior.
DIFFERENT CARD SYNERGIES
In this deck, I chose to play Prince Valanar as the only 4 mana card, giving me an additional heal and a mediocre taunt. It’s however possible to play a couple of other combinations instead, which I will explain below.
This is a more Handlock oriented build, which uses the drakes as a way to reclaim and pressure the board in the midgame. Having at least one hellfire at your disposal helps a lot with the early clear versus more aggressive decks.
Best case scenario, this gives you a very good turn 4 play, since Corpsetaker gets taunt, lifesteal and divine shield. This is definitely superior to Prince Valanar. The only issue is that you can’t draw all copies of either your lifesteal, taunt or divine shield minions, because then playing Corpsetaker will not grant the minion its full effect (and then it becomes worse than Prince Valanar).
Really fun idea, you play Howlfiend, then give it to your opponent and make them discard a lot of cards with it. I don’t think it makes the deck better in any way (it’s way too hard to pull the combo off, and those cards are unplayable if not used together), but it can give you some great moments.
The Jade Druid matchup is very straightforward: stay alive while clearing everything they put on the board. Tap as much as possible early on, so you can gather the minions and clears you need later in the game. A well timed Doomsayer on an empty board, for example when they hit 6 or 10 mana crystals, will often give you some extra breathing space. As soon as they play Ultimate Infestation, you can make good use of your Coldlight Oracle and burn some cards with it. Try to look for your Skulking Geist as fast as possible, because it becomes harder to play it the longer the game goes on. Playing an early Bloodreaver Gul'dan will give you a lot of survivability and makes it easier to clear the board.
Always look for a good Defile clear! Because of the incrementing nature of jades, the chance that you can fully clear the board with it, is great. You generally want to save your bigger clears like Twisting Nether for stronger jade boards.
Also, always keep their amount of possible burst in mind. Often your life total will go pretty low, so the key is to stay above their maximum burst damage. The best way to do this of course is by playing your own Death Knight, so the earlier you can get it out, the easier it will be to avoid the danger of getting bursted.
This matchup is way less straightforward than the Jade Druid one. There’s a couple of things you have to keep in mind while playing against Razakus Priest:
It’s almost impossible to beat Raza + Death Knight if the priest has both of them before turn 8. This shouldn’t happen often, but if it happens, don’t feel bad about it. There’s barely any deck around that can beat Razakus Priest if they start their machine gun as soon as turn 8. In other words, you shouldn’t play around it at any time.
Be careful about giving them draws. Giving the priest a lot of draws can have both a positive and negative effect. In the best case, you will be able to use your Coldlight Oracle to burn a lot of their cards. If you are able to burn Raza the Chained or Shadowreaper Anduin, you win the game on the spot. However, the reverse is also true. If you don’t manage to burn either of those, you gave them a bigger chance to draw them and go off earlier. Generally, I just let the priests draw at their own pace while setting up Bloodreaver Gul'dan and use Coldlight Oracle if their hand gets stacked by their own draws.
THERE’S 3 GAMEPLANS IN THIS MATCH-UP
- Burn their Raza the Chained or Shadowreaper Anduin. If they can’t get off the combo, you just out value them easily.
- Outheal them with Bloodreaver Gul'dan. Generally, this is your plan if you don’t manage to burn any of their key cards. Try to get the heal from your Death Knight every single turn. There are a couple of factors that decide whether it’s possible to outheal them or not: how their deck is built, how long it takes for them to get the combo, the pressure you put on them etc. ‘
- Kill them. This sounds logical, but it’s hard to do without minions like Twilight Drake and Mountain Giant that would give you a lot of mid game pressure. The games I manage to pull this off, are often the games where the battlecry of Bloodreaver Gul'dan goes unanswered. Putting a lot of pressure on them will also bait out some of their cards, in which case they can’t use those to get an extra hero power off after they played their Death Knight.