- Unknown Warlock
I love the Abyssal Curse archetype ever since it was introduced to Hearthstone…one day ago. Building upon a card I always found neat but underpowered, Curse of Rafaam, the archetype attaches on-field effects to the in-hand curse damage while giving the curses a damage scaling effect that honestly gets out of hand pretty quickly under the right circumstances. When combined with ways to sustain yourself through Soul Fragments and the "payoff" legendary Za'qul, you truly begin to feel like an affliction spec Warlock from World of Warcraft as you drain the opponent's life force, clog up their hand and maybe force them to waste some mana trying to fight off the inevitable.
I have been eagerly anticipating these cards since they were revealed, even as streamer after streamer has condemned them to be hot garbage and unplayable trash. To be clear, I do agree that this archetype is absolutely not meta and not close to upper tiers in terms of its strength. However, I mostly play casually because of the greater diversity of decks and willingness people have to try out "fun" strategies rather than playing the same 6-7 decks over and over again. In addition, who doesn't love playing bad cards and trying to find ways to make them work? This is not a knock on those of you who enjoy grinding the ladder-and more power to you! I just wanted to be clear that this deck, like all of the decks I have been posting, is intended for fun and not for ladder. While the fledgling Curse Warlock archetype may not be strong now, I do believe there is actually a solid core here that should receive one more curse generator come mini-set time.
In theorycrafting the curse Warlock deck pre-launch, I like many others settled on the shell used by many slower Warlock decks that populate the meta: cards like Defile, Plague of Flames, Tour Guide, Mistress of Mixtures, Armor Vendor and so on. The deck that emerged employed the curses in a more combo-focused fashion, holding on to them and discounting their costs through Runed Mithril Rod before stacking them all at once and more or less OTK-in the opponent. I found that too similar to the already existing decks and tried to iterate on it by adding what I see as the original affliction legendary: Hakkar, the Soulflayer. I leaned into a combo with Tamsin's Phylactery to be as meme-y as possible while still playing curses. Once I started playing however, I was unhappy with both how quickly I was dying and the speed at which I was (not) ramping up my curses.
It was at this point I came across the deck below while perusing what other OoC users were thinking up:
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(Many thanks to Kamouh for the inspiration!) Using this as a guide, I have been testing different cards and tinkering with the deck during this chaotic launch period to much better than expected results. While I still want to revisit a version of Curse Warlock that uses The Soulflayer for pure, unbridled anarchy…this list has been a very enjoyable way to relive my affliction warlock days in Hearthstone. This also feels like a solid way to welcome the soul fragment package into Wild fully as it rotates out of Standard and joins us in the jungle.
Yes, I crafted Za'qul for this deck.
No, I regret nothing.
As Roffle might say, the goal of the deck is to reduce your opponent's life total to zero. This time, you are seeking to achieve this by ramping up your Abyssal Curses while controlling the board and sustaining yourself with Soul Fragments. Through the use of recursion and mana cheat effects on your curse generators, you can usually scale these curses to high levels of damage and close out opponents on their draw even through multiple Reno Jacksons. (…but don't tempt fate too much there.) In an ideal game, you load the opponent's hand up with 3-5 ramped-up curses at once and then slam down everyone's favorite mossy man Loatheb (preferably with a mana discount or three on him) and force your opponent to hold on to most of the curses and take two ticks of damage.
@#$%! %^$@!~ ^&!!!
These are the bread and butter of the deck, the curse cards introduced in Sunken City. A lot of figuring out a deck like this is knowing when to "go in" and start ramping up your curses. It depends on the matchup and the recursion effects you have available to you in upcoming turns. While your first few curses are small and incidental, once you hit 3+ damage things get serious pretty quickly provided you are able to place multiple curses in the opponent's hand at a time. They will be forced to make difficult choices with their mana, hopefully opening up a window to play a recursion effect and combo even more curses into hand to end the game quickly.
Za'qul is an interesting card, and better than he appeared when revealed. It is definitely better to play him after your curses have ramped up, and ideally when you have multiple curses stacked up for a burst damage and heal combination. With the cards and effects in the following section, you can double up on him and give yourself Reno-like turns when you are in a pinch. Za'Cool Ade gives a great deal of sustain to you when played at the correct time, and continues your gameplan along its desired path pretty well.
Again, and again, and again, and again, and…
These are the cards that REALLY make this deck get out of control fast. Each one of them allows you to double dip on your curse generators and accelerate the snowballing effect of curses quickly. I generally look at two gameplans when it comes to these cards, the minion and spell recursion plans.
Minions: Brann Bronzebeard and Zola the Gorgon generate more copies of your Sira'kess Cultists and Za'qul as well as double the curses they put in hand. Later in the game either one of these effects can become deadly, both combined can end games on the spot. Toss in mana discounts from your Runed Mithril Rod and you can have some truly nutty turns where you generate upwards of 5 curses at once. As one example, an opponent recently left my Tamsin Roame alive on the board, allowing me to Zola a copy back to my hand and play her alongside multiple curse generating spells to generate NINE CURSES in the same turn that ramped from 2 damage to 10 damage in a flash, inflicting 53 damage on the opponent's next draw. Granted, this will probably NEVER happen again…but it is an example of the scaling power of curses and the kinds of plays that your minion recursion effects allow.
Spells: Since your spells are of the Shadow persuasion, Tamsin Roame provides incredible value in this deck. When possible, try to save spells to combo with the warlock/lich so that you can ramp up your curses quickly in one turn. Always assume that the opponent is going to do what Bru'kan did and murder her dead (spoilers) so make sure you play her in conjunction with something to get any value possible. While less than ideal and not the purpose of her inclusion in the deck, the soul fragment generating spells are also in the Shadow school, helping to give you more fragments while bolstering your removal supplies in the face of heavy aggro. You do not NEED to get curse value out of her to win, it's just more fun that way.
The Souls That Sustain Us:
A slightly more straightforward section, these are the cards that assist in both self-healing and board control. Soul Fragments are both great sources of health in a pinch and fuel for draw chains that can trigger a Runed Mithril Rod proc (yes, they take away a discount from a card in your deck as they do so, but this hasn't really been a problem for me so far.) Don't forget that the spells here are both in the Shadow school, meaning you can double dip with Tamsin Roame in a pinch if you need to swing the board back in your favor or generate a metric ton of fragments.
Shadowlight Scholar acts as both board control damage as well as chip damage to help push the opponent over the curse finish line. Don't forget that she works with Brann Bronzebeard if your deck has two or more fragments in it, making her a 3 mana deal 6 to any enemy including the face.
The Old, Familiar Faces:
Is there anything that needs to be said about these cards? They are the ones that find themselves in any Warlock deck that is not Zoo-based.
Mulligans & Matchups:
I try to start the game looking for clears and soul fragment generating cards before pivoting to a curse gameplan around turn 4 or so. When playing the deck, try your best to save up for curse combos that can load up multiple curses at once so that the opponent is surprised by sudden burst damage and begins to sweat a little. I usually tend to use a Sira'kess Cultist or Dragged Below as my first curse generator and then save the other copies for one of the recursion activators in the deck.
You are generally favored against aggro if you can draw into your clears and deal with early pressure. Control hasn't been too much of a problem either, as the deck seems to slow them down enough by forcing them to play curses and make sub-optimal plays while you generate modest pressure through minions and Dreadlich Tamsin imps. Combo can be a problem since they draw a lot and will keep their hands pretty full, but then you can look for opportunities to force an overdraw and hope you get lucky. I have surprised myself and been able to cut through large chunks of Druid armor with curses through smart use of Loatheb and well-timed burns.
While the deck has weaknesses, I truly have yet to feel completely out of a game. The deck has a lot of decision making going on, and is a fun mental exercise if you want something different than a straightaway combo or aggro deck.
I REALLLLLLLY want a way to fit Curse of Agony in here for thematic reasons. Even without the Augmented Elekk combo you can still shuffle 12 curses in with Tamsin's help, and that combined with Abyssal Curse damage truly would make you feel like a max-level Affliction Warlock. I don't know how to make it fit while still feeling good, so it's out for now.
I'm also testing out Drain Soul in place of Soul Shear at the moment because I have been in need of immediate healing every once and a while rather than sitting on more soul fragments and living or dying by the draw. You could also look at Touch of the Nathrezim as another source of control and healing that works with Tamsin as well.
Raise Dead is another card that could have a home in this deck, although I imagine you would want to play it in a version that uses less Soul Fragment minions to ensure more card draw or preferably curse generators. That could be an avenue worth exploring as well, limiting the soul fragment package to just Soul Shear and School Spirits and putting in Raise Dead and some other source of healing and control to make up the difference. Or inversely cut the soul fragments altogether and go another direction with the deck. It’s up to you!
Luckysoul Hoarder is a solid card that should be in this deck as well, I just couldn’t find room without removing something like Defile, Plague of Flames or Shadowlight Scholar. Maybe you can find a home for him?
I’m not afraid to say it: I love the curse warlock archetype. Very few other classes have a mechanic that so closely replicates their WoW play style, and I hope that the deck receives even just one more card in the upcoming mini set to truly solidify it’s core. A deathrattle minion that gives a curse would be amazing in my opinion for the synergy with Tamsin’s Phylactery…but I’ll keep dreaming and hoping until we know what’s coming.
No, this deck isn’t going to storm to the top of the Wild meta, especially with turn 3 OTK’s flying left and right. It IS a lot of fun to pilot, gives you an interesting set of decisions to make, and forces interaction with your opponent in a new way for the game. I think these are things that should be rewarded personally, and so I will be playing this archetype throughout this expansion and beyond.
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