Murlocs - More than a fish
Murlocs as an archetype to build your entire deck around have been around for a long time. However, in the current meta I think they are incredibly underrated, and with some tweaks to the deck they can hold themselves incredibly well against many of the most popular decks. I myself, without much struggle, climbed from rank 15 to Legend in 2 days this season, only using Murloc, after previously not having bypassed rank 5 at all. In this guide I want to teach how that worked and shed a better light on these forgotten fish.
So, what you first think of when you hear Murlocs is buffing. Almost each and every Murloc buffes every other one, resulting in a field crazily hard to remove.
This is also where people start seeing the problems. A murloc deck seems way too hit or miss, completely draw dependant and more often then not you will get removed and overwhelmed with larger minions. This is where why we will use our mulligan Phase to decide on how our game will start, with a Murloc or with any other small creature.
If you have a crazy combo on hands, for example your mulligan consists of a Murloc Tidecaller, Murloc Tidehunter, the Coldlight Seer and a Murloc Warleader you can definitely try to bring out that Murloc Tidecaller on turn 1. The chances of it working rely heavily on the class you're playing against, a Shaman for example will more often then not find an answer, if however the opponent happens not to remove it you just about won the game right there and then, because even if it gets removed turn 2 we still have the Ball rolling and the Murloc Tidehunter+Token on the field. Upcoming AOE removal gets countered by any buffs you have and you reached what this deck relies on: Incredible pressure.
But let's be honest, those hands are not always there. That's why, in most of the games, the strategy is different. With the popularity of Zoo on every region of the ladder, you will want to bait out your opponent's soft removal early one. Be it Wrath, an Arcane Shot, a Frostbolt, you name it, they will come out if you start off with the Zoo route and get those damn Flame Imps, Voidwalkers and Knife Jugglers in there. God beware if they even get buffed by a Young Priestess. Now you've already reached two goals: You've assumed an agressive position (this deck is ALWAYS the agressor), and the opponent is most likely not going to have cheap removal left.
From this point, it of course depends on the game, I will go into details below, but you basically want to stabilize your Board position and send out the Murlocs as soon as you think they can either be buffed immediately or they will live a turn to gain even more support. The third possibility would be they use all their ressources on unbuffed Murlocs and your Flame Imps keep smashing their face it. Doesn't sound all attractive, does it?
There are to possible ways of finishing the game. You either gain a great board and constantly keep hitting them for 3, then for 7, suddenly for 14? Or you get them low until they finally catch breath and you Finish with any combination of Leeroy Jenkins, Power Overwhelming, Soulfire, Old Murk-Eye and possibly Hellfire.
But why the Hellfire?
The first time I presented this deck this was about 60% of the comments. My reasoning however stands.
Hellfire has 2 uses. First, you can use it if you fucked up your first turns, completely lost your board and now want to get a chance to comeback. This, if ever, primarely happens against ZooLocks, Tempo Rogues and Mid Range Shamans. Keep in mind that regaining the Tempo will only work if you either have the mana to actually put up a body the same turn or at least have the hand to intimidate your opponent next turn. If that is not the case you have to watch the game and see if you possibly can afford to actually tap, pass, take it all to the face and Hellfire the next turn.
Second, even if more rare, it is 3 damage to the face still. This is not mana efficient, but in a late game topdecking situation where all you fish for is a chance to push through that last bit of damage onto the opponent it is almost worth a third Soulfire. This primarely helps against Handlocks, who become most dangerous below 10 HP.
Alternatives to Hellfire:
As much as I still prefer it I'd never want to force it upon anybody else, possible replacements are:
Shadowflame: Better at board clearing, but forces you to give up one of your on Minions which is better if you just want to clear for safety but worse if you are behind - maybe even without a body on the field - which is what I primarely use Hellfire for.
A second Knife Juggler: A more aggressive approach, but pretty self-explanatory. You play a lot of minions, it deals damage if you do, sounds solid.
Do not use:
Doomguard: Great card, isn't it? Yeah, but not for this deck. You'd rather go 29 cards than play this big boy. The body fits the board control aspect of Zoo way better then this agressive deck, 5 Damage for 5 mana is not overwhelming and more importantly you DO NOT want to discard two cards. I already have a hard enough time using Soulfire. Only in a topdecking situation would you want to use this, if you keep any Murlocs, Power Overwhelmings, Leeroy Jenkins or whatever else on hand as a finisher Domguard is downright dead. Essentially you need them all more then a Doomguard on the field.
Mortal Coil: Not as horrible as Doomguard, just really really really not needed. You have to see that this deck always wants to be the agressor, if you do it right the opponent will have to run into your minions and you will want to run into his face. 1 card and, more importantly 1 mana will usually already be too much to spare to remove a 1 health minion. I see how it can situationally be good, but this deck just doesn't want this card.
Matchups and Mulligans!
I want to preface this by saying that Mulliganing is always very very similar with little tweaks that I'll mention within the Matchup guide. As stated in the general strategy section you either get a great starting combination of Murlocs or you bait out cheap removal and build an agressive board.
Handlock: Possibly the easiest of all Matchups. If you do not see a Turn 1 play from sides of a Murloc you are going to agress heavily anyways. If turn 2 consists of a Tap I congratulate you to the star.
By turn 3 you will already have put massive damage on them and equally well will you have damage on the field to use. The options are that he either uses some cards, Soulfire etc, to clear some of the field, in which case you just keep pressuring, building up Murlocs and hitting him, or he only tapped and now has the one option to Ancient Watcher+Sunfury Protector that would not outright kill him. This will essentially act as a 5 Health heal, but it will not stop you too much and it will stop his giant flow. If he just mountain giants you can probably hit him for lethal that or the next turn (Voidwalkers block them excellently).
Example: Your opponent has 5 mana, you do not drop him below 9+5=14, the Molten Giant will cost 4, not enough Mana for the Sunfury Protector. Realize how much more power a gets the closer he gets to 10 hp. That's why you want to drop him from 15~ to 0 in one turn and build up a field.
Zoolock: Surprisingly, you may or may not believe it, also a favourable matchup many times. Here you specifically want either Voidwalkers or anything in combination with Young Priestess, if you want to be careful think about Mulliganing for a Soulfire as well. The plan is to gain the Tempo over him and then start the usual agressive play. In this matchup the winner will honestly usually be the one who gains the initiative and determines the board in the first 2-3 turns. But even if you fail at that, you will still be able to drop him low, Zoolock is a deck that naturally loses hp rather quickly, and finish him with any combination of Leeroy Jenkins, Power Overwhelming, Soulfire and Old Murk-Eye. If all fails the Hellfire comes into play, resetting the board or finishing the Zoolock for you.
Other MurLocks: Not going to lie, one of the dumbest matchups ever. Essentially the one who get a solid field of Murlocs out first makes his respective opponent think thrice about any murlocs he might want to play. Only played this matchup once, won, but would call it absolutely RNG based. May the man with the better starting hand win.
Overall you may notice that I was very glad about other Warlocks on the ladder as I am confident this deck beats both popular types of Warlocks, driving up the winrate insanely. And let's be honest, Warlocks never fall out of the Meta.
Control Warrior: Ugh, control warriors. Before I start to sound unrealistically biased here I'll say it. This matchup is about a 30% winrate for me. Sometimes they will be slow, their starting hands probably costing somewhere between 30-50 mana and a Yacht full of dust. In that case they will just try to armor against you and you can shred them. Realistically however? Fiery War Axes, Slams, Whirlwinds, Cleaves Shield Slams Executes, not to forget the god damn Brawls. There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but damn, not THAT many.
Aggro Warrior: Thank you, based Reynad, you're brought a warrior into play that I can beat. Unfortunately, at least on ranks 5+ those have become incredibly rare. But it's all good, there are none of the aforementioned cards annoying you except for the Fiery War Axes that would actually love to just hit your face. They either try to rush you and lose your pace, or they try to control you and lose their steam. Additionally, a turn 3 Frothing Berserker is so incredibly slow, the Murlocs collectively laugh their asses off.
Shockadin: Some of them you do see, I consider it a 50/50, a 60/40 at best. I'm pretty certain you can rush faster then them, but due to the fast pace they build up you do not even have a choice but put in all your sources. If you do not have a hand that plays around Consecration all you have left is pray that he doesn't have it or that you have a Hellfire.
Mid Range Paladin: I've never actually played any of them on the ladder, a quick mention though since I myself play that deck and it may gain some popularity through Reynad. The Paladin suffers from the sickness not to really do anything against Aggro up until turn 4, even then it would just be a single Consecration and no further play, so a Coldlight Seer makes it sort of a sure win, even if objectively not so.
Druid: It's essentially the same for all kinds of Druid's that are out there, the matchup is generally not bad, but it really depends on what route they take. First off, Prioritize setting up a Wrath bait, then all you have to do is Build up a field that does not fall into the hands of Swipe. If they do Wrath, Shapeshift, Wild Growth etc. they spend way too much time on doing so little and it works very well for you. If they, however, start playing around with innervate youre more likely done.T1 The Coin + Innervate + Chillwind Yeti trades solidly for 2 turns worth of bodies and slows you down immensely. Same goes if they T2 The Coin + Innervate + Druid of the Claw for the taunt or Innervate + Keeper of the Grove your T1. Soulfire is only a very hurtful way to play around that, may however still be aimed for in mulligan phase if you do not feel confident with your hand.
Freeze Mage: Not an easy matchup, but doable. Do NOT tap too much, as much as it hurts, every Tap that you do not need gives him lethal with less combo pieces. Fish for Charges and Minions with more then 1 HP and utilize the fact that he will spend more time stalling and drawing than clearing your board effectively. Also, always keep something in your hand that you can use to kill him after you proc his Ice Block. Every point of damage over lethal that you put on the field unnecessarily could bite you in the ass, remember in Hearthstone we have ways to interact with our opponents board but NO hand disruption.
Shaman: I will surprise you when I say this, but even though the removal of Shamans, especially the early one, is close to unbeaten I usually feel confident playing against them. What I said around 20 times now is even more relevant now, put something to bait. Flame Imps are excellent, Leper Gnomes are okay as well. Remember that every Rockbiter Weapon Turn 1 puts some damage onto them already, which will not be healed back, any Lightning Bolt leaves you with the Freedom to put things on T2 that they will only have 2 mana to remove and every Earth Shock that goes on a Leper Gnome ceases to silence a Murloc. Aside from that, the match is very Brute Force. Hit him. He will not heal it back. Leeroy Jenkins and friends will do the rest. And do not forget to keep a Soulfire for the Feral Spirit and curse at every late game Stoneclaw Totem they roll.
Hunter: Another case of "You will rush them faster then they will rush you". Except for Arcane Shot you do not have to play around anything Turn 1, try to Bypass Explosive Traps by Mulliganing for Voidwalkers, Young Priestesses and Coldlight Seers. If Explosive Trap doesnt seem to make sense attack with whoever you can afford to have bounced back to the hand by a Freezing Trap. From there the game carries itself, the biggest possible problems could be Misha, which is RNG based and something Houndmastered, which is slow and expensive if you clear the 1 or 2 mana beasts that should not be standing alone anyways.
Oh, and this is also the match for you if you want to see Unleash the Hounds for field clear.
Priest: This one is quickly explained. One, in extreme cases two of your minions are going to die to Shadow Word: Pain and/or Holy Smite. Now you can safely hit his face as long as you play around Holy Nova. Of course Wild Pyromancer + any amount of Spells will clear you, however that is unpredictable and requires a sufficient, unknown amount of combo pieces. Auchenai Soulpriest + Circle of Healing are also just about impossible to target to play around, thus having to be ignored. If any of those happen you will have to rely on having dealt some damage and using any combination of Leeroy Jenkins, Power Overwhelming, Soulfire and Old Murk-Eye. If none of that happens, a board that plays around the Holy Nova will usually win you the game.
Miracle Rogue: For this one you have to locate the top-left button of your Keyboard. Press it and you will get the option to concede.
On a serious note, you will pretty much have to just vomit out your hand and hope on this one and you will usually lose. If it were for anything to stay on the field you could easily use their lack of defense to rush them down, however, nothing is going to stay on the field. You can not play around removal since you'd almost have to assume the worst (2 Preparations + whatever spells they need).
Tempo Rogue: Is not as bad, albeit not good either. You will not at all run into as many Preparations and Fan of Knivess, but you will still have to play around Shiv, Backstab, Deadly Poison, Blade Flurry and of course the SI:7 Agent. There is, however, a way better chance of them spending their early turns with Daggering up or playing Loot Hoarders, so you can at least try to maintain a board and hope to play around enough removal to hit them hard enough until any combination of Leeroy Jenkins, Power Overwhelming, Soulfire and Old Murk-Eye can finish them, since the only means of taunting they have are Defender of Argus.
Burn Rogue: I've played and beaten 3 of them. This may or may not have been luck though. I feel like it really depended because many Burn Rogues are really unwilling to trade their chargers into my Murlocs, allowing for some huge Murloc Warleader damage boosts. I think with some well distributed Board Control attempts the Burn rogue may have the upper hand, if the Murlocs are left standing they will win for sure, aside from that it's mostly a "Let's see who has the better draw to bash in faces" matchup.
Do I trade at all with this deck?
On rare occasions.
Trade, of course, if you feel like you'd lose the game or the board next turn if you do not get rid of an opponents source of damage.
Trade if you feel like your Murloc Warleaders are in danger. Losing a 4/2 body is much better then losing a 3/3 body and a 2/1 buff to all your minions.
Old Murk-Eye is a great finisher if you have a board full of Murlocs. If your board is less great it can actually be a great controlling tool. On 4 base health, with Charge and an easily buffed attack it gets rid of a load of threats to your life, Taunts or just whatever you feel like will really disrupt your play.
Murloc Raiders are replacable. I've let off doing it because the Murloc label has a thematic and an actual ingame value for this deck, but in the wrong situations you should consider putting them as cheap removal bait or actually taking them out of your deck with whatever you feel comfortable with.Abusive Sergeant is a good example.
I think I've covered my points, if you have any questions feel free to add me on EUW: Vijce#2689 or on Reddit /u/Noivis. Thanks to everyone who's attention I could keep.
I'd appreciate any kind of feedback, positive or negative, as this is my first time creating a guide like this!