The upcoming Warlock legendary cards for Hearthstone’s Journey to Un’Goro expansion, Lakkari Sacrifice quest and Clutchmother Zavas minion, were revealed recently, and speculation on what kind of a form a discard-heavy Warlock might take has started immediately.
While there are still more cards to come, I will examine what we currently know and what seems possible in the future.
The discard tools at our disposal in Journey to Un’Goro Standard format
Succubus, as a basic set card, is always available to use. However, it does not currently see play, and it seems unlikely for it to see play after the expansion either: while rolling out a 4/3 for 2 mana is strong, the 3 health make it too vulnerable for the extensive downside of discarding a card.
Soulfire is also a basic set card, but it is a much more powerful one. Dealing 4 damage anywhere, including to the opposing player, makes the card extremely versatile either to protect your board or to just deal damage to face.
Doomguard, from the classic set, is another evergreen, and an immensely powerful one at that. The fact that it was a staple in Zoo even when non-discard Zoo was viable shows how powerful it is as a card, not just as a discard card.
Important discard lessons can be learned from the history of Doomguard, as it competed with Leeroy Jenkins back when Zoo was not always based on the discard mechanic. In fact, the flood-type Zoo that ran Sea Giants as big threats often steered away from Doomguards, because having important cards you want to hold on to and having big discard effects do not go well together. In general, when you go for lots of discard effects, you do not want to have irreplaceable late-game cards in your deck, as they interfere with your discard gameplan.
Darkshire Librarian, from Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, sees some play in current discard decks. Discard decks often struggle to refill their hand, so while the Librarian discards a card, it also gives you another card as a deathrattle effect. The 3/2 body for 2 mana is thoroughly average though, so the Darkshire Librarian needs cards you want to discard to be played in the deck alongside it to really shine.
Malchezaar’s Imp, from One Night in Karazhan adventure, is a key piece in all discard decks. When you discard some of your cards, you desperately need to replace them, and the Imp accomplishes exactly that by allowing you to draw a card for each one you discard.
Silverware Golem, from One Night in Karazhan adventure, does not discard any cards, but instead wants to be discarded, as when it does, it is summoned on the board for free.
Deathwing, a legendary from the classic set, is also technically a discard card, even though it is currently not played for that purpose. A final board clear at 10 mana, it discards your entire hand, but that is a price worth paying sometimes. If Deathwing was run in a discard Warlock deck though, it works with both Malchezaar’s Imp (Imp draws you cards before it is destroyed) and Silverware Golem (Golems are summoned if you have space on the board before playing Deathwing).
The problem with Deathwing in discard decks is that such decks generally do not want to run important individual cards that they cannot afford to discard. The hyper-aggressive Discard Zoo does not care too much about what it throws away (even though it prefers Silverware Golems) – most cards can be replaced with other similar cards, as long as it can keep drawing.
Then, there are the new tools coming in Journey to Un’Goro:
Lakkari Felhound is a common card from Journey to Un’Goro, a 4-mana 3/8 taunt that discards to cards from your hand when played. The price is steep, and it is more of a defensive tool than the charging Doomguard, but it does have extraordinary stats for its mana cost.
Lakkari Sacrifice is the Warlock quest card from Journey to Un’Goro. The quest is to discard six cards (actually discard them, not just play a discard card while having an empty hand, although Silverware Golem counts as discarded as it is first discarded and then summoned) and the reward is a 5-mana spell that creates a Nether Portal. Nether Portal is a permanent minion that cannot be damaged or destroyed in any way, and it summons a 3/2 Imp on each side of it at the end of its owner’s turn. Yes, that’s two minions at the end of each of the owner’s turns until the end of the game.
Alas, Lakkari Sacrifice does not fit the current Discard Zoo archetype at all. Discard Zoo is all about going in fast, whereas the Nether Portal is ultimate value. Well, second to Jade Idol, but still. Furthermore, a permanent minion in the middle of the board blocks methods such as Direwolf Alpha chain that Zoo uses to trade effectively.
Clutchmother Zavas is the Warlock class legendary minion, a 2-mana 2/2 that, when discarded, gains +2/+2 and is returned to your hand. It is nuts. Discard decks desperately want cards, and Zavas handily solves that issue by never leaving your hand. Zavas can be used to conserve your other resources or to complete the Warlock quest faster. Simply put, Zavas fits any discard deck whatsoever. The body does not even matter – simply the effect of allowing discard effects to happen while holding on to cards is worth more than any statline.
The only downside is that Zavas is a legendary card, so you can only have one in your deck. Whether you manage to draw it early or not will have a significant effect on your success. On the bright side, Zavas combined with Malchezaar’s Imps gives you a better chance to find at least one of the three when you need them – or if you can find both Zavas and an Imp it’s just straight up fireworks.
Discard Zoo is still fine
In the upcoming rotation, Discard Zoo only loses two cards: Dark Peddler and Imp Gang Boss. Admittedly, both are very good cards, especially so as they are key cards in card and token generation. However, the buff to resource conservation from Clutchmother Zavas helps ease the blow and then it is merely a matter of finding a couple of other cards to run, and there are still plenty more to be revealed to find options from.
Considering that after the nerfs to Spirit Claws and Small-Time Buccaneer, Discard Zoo is already a ladder-viable deck, the future looks bright for the archetype.
Nether Portal is immense value, but where does it fit?
Right now, it is hard to see where Lakkari Sacrifice and the Nether Portal gained from it fit. Control Warlock that only runs Deathwing and discards all the needed cards in one go late in the game?
It cannot really fit Discard Zoo, because Zoo cannot afford the tempo loss from playing the quest card on turn one.
It has trouble fitting into a control version either, as discard effects are a poor match with cards that you dearly want to hold on to, as was learned in the Doomguard / Sea Giant era of Zoo. Discard effects are also difficult to target to synergy cards when holding on to a large hand.
Furthermore, the overall value of Nether Portal is limited by Jade Golems. Getting 6/4 stats on the board every turn is great, but getting 10+/10+ minion on the board every turn is even better.
Currently, the best fit for Nether Portal seems to be a midrange discard deck that survives the early game with Lakkari Felhounds and heavily abuses Malchezaar’s Imps and Clutchmother Zavas to get the discard counter rolling. Whether such a deck can be built to be consistent enough is completely open – and whether it can rival a pure, aggressive Discard Zoo in power even if it was consistent is another huge question. At best, it can re-enable a more midrange-style of Discardlock, but that remains to be seen.