An in depth Legend Zoo guide - (Updated for Naxxramas!)

Hey guys! So this is obviously a variation on the Reynad zoo list, which I used to get legend in my very first season playing ranked (and without spending a single penny)! I made this because I felt like my experiences laddering with this deck could help others and because I wanted to put up the list I thought was strongest. I may well update the odd card or two in the list as I play more. Full credit to Reynad for pretty much this entire archetype of deck in the current meta, but this isn't simply a copy and pasted list. This is the list I have decided on after testing many variations. Hope this guide helps and that you guys have the same success with it. Please don't hesitate to ask any questions, give any feedback, or even post your own results with the deck!

Naxxramas!

First Wing:

Naxxramas is finally here! I'm so excited for the new cards coming in and FINALLY shaking up the stale meta. As well as new options for Zoo, there is also a lot to consider as far as what new things you are likely to be facing.

First things first. Nerubian Egg. Yes please! 4/6 worth of stats for 2 mana, but that's not all. The egg might look like the downside to the card (which of course it is, a 4/6 for 2 would be so op), but it does pose some problems for the opponent. It is amazing against AoE and synergies well with all the buffs zoo has. However it is vulnerable to silence (this is likely to come up a lot in the next few weeks). I've swapped them in for the Blood Knight and Scarlet Crusader, which is nice since it removes one of the few inconsistencies left in the zoo deck, although Nerubian Egg isn't completely consistent itself.

Secondly, Haunted Creeper. Some people have been getting excited about this card but I'm not yet convinced. The total stats are very nice (3/4 for 2 mana), but none of the individual parts are very relevant on their own. The problem with this is that Zoo relies heavily on keeping up the pressure, and this card has such a low impact when played. You could make the same argument for the egg too, but I think the egg has a high enough upside to compensate. However the card is decent, and has good synergy with Knife Juggler, so there's a chance that as I test it might make the cut. Looking down the list though it would have to be a 1 drop that gets nudged out to make room, and that's a tough sacrifice to make considering that the decks strength is it's speed.

The other 2 neutral cards aren't cards that are a consideration for zoo, but they definitely give you something to think about in terms of playing against them, especially considering that for a while people will be testing a lot of these new cards, and both of these cards pose Zoo some problems. Maexxna is a card with an annoying effect, and it's no secret that Zoo hate big minions. This card combined with taunt could be a real problem, and you definitely can't put down an unprotected Doomguard with this around. However, it is likely to be too slow to be a huge worry for zoo. Nerub'ar Weblord also has an effect that causes zoo a lot of problems, since battlecries are a big part of the deck. However this weak minion is likely to be run over by your board, so it shouldn't pose too big a problem. Just bear the card in mind when planning something like removing a taunt with an Abusive Sergeant for example.

Finally we have the 2 class cards. Druid. Poison Seeds doesn't seem to be a card Zoo should be too afraid of. Spending 4 mana and still leaving Zoo a board to work with isn't that scary, but you may well see an increase in Abomination and Starfall as a result, which will be a problem for Zoo. This is a shame since Druid was a match up MASSIVELY in Zoo's favour before. Rogue got great big Yeti Spider, also known as the Anub'ar Ambusher. This might cause an increase in Tempo Rogue, which is definitely not a good thing for Zoo. As for Miracle Rogue, this card has potential to cause problems for zoo. It's big, not too slow, and may well result in Miracle getting back an SI:7 Agent or card draw card. There is also the scary potential for playing a charge card the next turn, sacrificing the Ambusher and getting the charge back.

  • Power Overwhelming has been much better than Abusive Sergeant for me so I've switched him out for a second. Also I undervalued the direwolf doggy, forgetting about how you can trade off minions either side to get a lot of value so I took out the Shattered Sun Cleric I was trying for it. Back to 2 of everything basically.
  • After testing, the undertaker zombie chow combo is too strong to pass up. Also the undertakers make a second haunted creeper a must too. Argent squires don't seem to be very strong in the new deathrattle style zoo, but even with needing to cram so much in I still really like the effect of the Shattered Sun Cleric, so one has made it's way back in for now and I've been happy with it. Again I highly doubt these changes will be permanent with it being so hard to fit everything to you want into zoo now, and so many cards having risk involved and the ooze coming next week, so stay tuned!
  • I stopped playing for a while, but when I came back I decided to try out the Power/Terror combo, and it got me second at last weeks Topdeck EU tournament so I guess I'm convinced. Also Creeper seems ok, but I still think it's low impact. Also with all the deathrattles running around Elven Archer is getting better and better. With ALL these things in mind I've changed up the deck list quite a lot, but you can expect even more changes as I keep testing. I feel like the pre-naxx deck was the best possible zoo, and hopefully I can optimise the new zoo too!

Changes: 2xPower verwhelming, 2xVoid Terror, 1xHaunted Creeper, 1xElven Archer <-------- 2xYoung Priestess, 2xShieldbearer, 2xShattered Sun Cleric

  • Thanks to Naxxramas Nerubian Egg is finally here! The recently added Blood Knight and Scarlet Crusader make way for it.
  • Replaced the much complained about Amani Berserkers with a Scarlet Crusader and a Blood Knight.
  • Improved the section on card variations since so many questions were on this.
  • Just confirmed that Reynad senpai is indeed playing exactly the same list, which makes me pretty happy. Not that it matters, but I did decide on this list myself before I knew what Reynad or anyone else was playing, but the fact that Reynad thinks this is the best list too gives a lot of evidence to what I'm saying.
  • Yep the Soulfire is back in. This little soiree without it has re-convinced me that it is too important to remove. In the mirror match especially the tempo gain is invaluable and it can also be a finisher. I did swap out Argent Commander for it.
  • Swapped out a Soulfire for a second Dark Iron Dwarf and the Elven Archer for a second Shieldbearer. The reasons being that I think the Dwarf has so much value in the trades it allows for your other minions, and the board presence it has after that is good. I may well end up removing something (probably Argent Commander) for the second Soulfire again since getting tempo with an early Soulfire usually wins you the mirror match. I prefer the Shieldbearer to the archer because the archer is situational, and Shieldbearer is just so dam good in this deck! 1 mana 4 health. It's payback time...
  • Added fancy card link things. I will be adding a section soon on cards I think you should avoid in zoo, since I've looked through other lists and a LOT of people seem to run them. I want to give my reasons why I don't think they work. It will feature the likes of Leeroy Jenkins and The Black Knight. I will also be testing Master Swordsmith in the Amani Berserker slot. At some point I will also try to add a detailed match up section.

Also a big thanks to Lumin for this brief video breakdown of the deck!

Card Variations:

1 Mana.

Possible cuts (meta dependent):

Argent SquireThis is a change you should be making only if you are seeing a lot of Blood Knights around (and of course you aren't playing one yourself). Other than that this card has great potential when combined with your buff cards, and is one of the hardest 1 drops to remove, allowing you to get your board built up early.

Cards I wouldn't replace (subject to change):

Shieldbearer: This card is key to zoo, and is one of the changes Reynad made originally that propelled zoo to the dizzying heights it now finds itself at. The protection it provides your cheap minions is invaluable, allowing you to dictate trades, but on top of that it combines so well with all the buffs this decks runs. It's payback time.

Young Priestess: I was pretty surprised by the number of people leaving comments questioning this card. Clearly these people had never opened with coin double Priestess, which I think is in a lot of cases the strongest start you can have. But even if you barely get to make use of the effect, don't worry! People try way too hard to keep the Priestess alive and buffing, but it's not important to the deck. Use her to trade or draw out a Backstab, that's fine for you. Remember she is just a tiny part of the wave of minions you have to throw at your opponent. That being said try to use her buff best as you can. For example place her down with a Flame Imp a turn or two before Consecration is due to make things as awkward as possible for your opponent.

The rest. The 1 drops are the backbone of this deck. The reason it has so many is to ensure you almost always have a good play and can use your mana effectively.

2 & 3 Mana.

Possible additions:

Elven Archer: I prefer Elven Archer to Mortal Coil because of all the buffs/Knife Juggler, the fact that it's better to remove divine shields with, and even that it can hit the face is a small factor. I think the Archer is definitely the best 1 drop not included already, pipping Leper Gnome due to the fact that it is more versatile, has more of an emphasis on board control, and has an impact straight away. The Elven Archer is also a good card in the mirror match, with is worth considering with the popularity of zoo.

Haunted Creeper: As described above the Harvest Golem's little brother is pretty close to being in, but the lack of pressure keeping it out.

Amani Berserker: This is probably the weakest slot in the deck. The lack of impact and initial power of the card makes it often feel lackluster, but the fact that it is in the deck means that I still think it's the best option for the slot currently. A lot of it's strength is in the treat it has to your opponent. It often draws decent removal spells just because of the threat of enrage, and it can punish some of the weaker AoE spells quite heavily.

King Mukla: I played this card on and off on my climb to Legend in season 1, but the rise of Miracle Rogue, and consistency of Harvest Golem has pushed it out the deck. While it is great for pressuring Rogues, I found it getting removed too quickly too often to warrant the bananas it gives.

Scarlet CrusadersBlood Knight: I'm not sure if it's worth slightly weakening your deck in most games for a big plus in a few games since the philosophy of this deck is consistency, but I think both variants are fine. Personally I would drop the golems for the crusaders and a berserker for the Blood Knight. With the amount of Blood Knights in the meta right now this build is probably too vulnerable to being countered before you can combo the cards yourself. It is a strong build for the mirror match, but suffers pretty heavily to the Shamans Earth Shock.

What not to pick:

You could consider ooze and owl too but the problem there is you don't want to hold any cards waiting for a weapon/silence target with this deck, and the owl especially is a very weak 2 drop. The Owl may become much better as Naxxramas continues to role out, but Zoo is not a deck that looks to respond. A good offence is the best defense!

Mulligans:

Your first priority in the mulligan is finding a 1 drop that you want to play turn 1, ie Flame Imp, Argent Squire, Voidwalker, and Young Priestess. The second thing you are looking for is a 2 drop. The only situation I EVER keep a 3 drop is if I start with a 2 drop and a 1 drop that I actually want to play turn 1 already in my hand. There is NO situation where you should keep any card above 3 mana. When you are going second you're looking for 2 strong 1 drops to open with. Try to plan out your first few turns based straight away (not that you shouldn't deviate if you draw into something nice). Finally, Soulfire. The only situation that I keep Soulfire in is the mirror. It is amazing for swinging the control of the board, which is EVERYTHING in the mirror match (0 mana cards op). The only time I don't keep Soulfire against Warlock is if I know it's Handlock. It's not too bad against Handlock, since the plan is to burst them down early before the taunts come out, but I think getting a huge early board is more important, and you obviously aren't competing for board against Handlock in the first few turns.

 

Playing the deck:

Try to always make good value trades when they are there. This is not a face aggro deck! But that isn't to say you shouldn't go face sometimes. Some match ups require you to pressure your opponents life total. For example against handlock you basically just have to go to the face as hard as you can and pray you can beat them down before they draw giants + taunts. In general that is what makes this deck strong. Not only can it compete with strong decks, but if your opponent doesn't draw well you win for free, since the way this deck is built you will have at least an OK hand 95% of the time. Some people hate on this deck for being easy to play, and while I wouldn't claim it's one of the hardest decks to play, I definitely don't agree that it's easy. Sure the game plan is simply to empty your hand, playing as close to curve as possible. However, you still have plenty of decisions over which card to play or buff, to play around possible removal and get the best trades. Buffing the wrong minion or playing the wrong 1 drop can completely lose control of the board which often loses this deck the game! There are also many crucial decisions to make on trading, and even when not to trade at all. Deciding when to simply hit your opponent in the face might not sound complicated, but it can actually be incredibly hard to perfectly way up the risk vs reward of opening your minions up to bad trades/removal to get extra damage.

 

Some people I have seen playing zoo use hero power too much. It should be quite rare for your hand to be more than 3 or 4 cards since most of the time you want to open with a board full of 1 and 2 drops, and because you want to empty your hand by Doomguard time. Hero power is not to keep your hand big with this deck, it's to prevent you running out of steam when you do empty your hand. If you can't play to your curve then you can hero power to fill the gap in mana (for example if you have 2 and 3 mana cards on turn 4 it is often best to tap and play a 2 drop). Using your hero power in the first 3 or 4 turns can lose you a lot of presence on the board, which is whole point of the deck. This is why the mulligan is so important.

 

Doomguards and discards:

I think the last thing to cover is Doomguard discards. Should you play them turn 5? Usually no. Try to hold them until you can clear the rest of your hand with it to avoid discards. This is usually around turn 7 or 8 if you empty your hand each turn until you are left with just the Doomguard, since the chance of drawing a card above 2 or 3 mana is quite low. Even if you do draw an expensive card just put that and whatever else you can down and you will be able to play the Doomguard in the turn or two anyway. HOWEVER, that said don't be afraid to discard. There are situations where just slamming it down turn 5 or later even with other cards in your hand is fine, like if you need to get through a taunt, apply pressure, or if you simply don't have a good play that turn apart from Doomguard. What about if you have a Soulfire too? This is one of the only really bad hands you can have as zoo, but usually it's not too much of a problem. You need to weigh up the risk vs the reward.  If you aren't in control of the game, you will need to judge what to do based on how many cards you have in hand, and how badly you need a Soulfire. For example if you have 3 or 4 cards in hand and he drops an Azure Drake or something similar, using Soulfire is a no brainer. If you discard a Doomguard that sucks, but you just removed his minion for free and can play the rest of your cards anyway. Or if you are really far behind then you will probably need to risk using Soulfire to try and get both it and the Doomguard out to swing momentum back to you. If you are already in control of the game then there's no need to take a risk and you can just discard the Soulfire. Play as described above with the Doomguard, but as though the Soulfire isn't even there, and just discard it. There's no point making risky discard plays if you have a lead.

 

 

Well I hope this guide was helpful to anyone that made it through the wall of text. The deck is powerful, consistent, and incredibly cheap to craft! I know it's not exactly an original deck but hopefully my input of some value to some of you guys. Hope you enjoy and good luck on ladder!