Wild Pain Warlock: A Guide to the new best deck in the format

Since the release of the Scholomance Academy expansion, Darkglare Warlock, and its Pain Warlock variant, stand out above the rest in the Wild format. Today I want to discuss the new build based around the Warlock card, Darkglare. In particular, the new self-harm build of the deck that is taking over the legend ranks.

With dozens of different builds of Pain Warlock going around, I (Tsukaime) want to specifically feature the list I used yesterday to climb from rank 891 to rank 154 Wild Legend on the European server with an over 82% win rate. 

For those unfamiliar with my past in the Hearthstone scene, I’ve played Zoo Warlock at every opportunity since 2014. Since I have played over 3000 games of Zoo Warlock on Europe alone, climbing to the top 100 Wild Legend ranks regularly. 

Deck core of Wild Pain Warlock

The new Darkglare builds are too new to have a specific core set of cards. However, certain cards are popular among all the top builds and should, in my opinion, your build should include. The main cards included in the “core” of Darkglare warlock are the cards that should be in most builds of the deck. The most notable one, besides Darkglare himself, is Raise Dead. The new 0-cost spell from the Scholomance Academy expansion. 

Besides this, you should include the best self-damaging cards available. These self-harm cards include Flame Imp, Kobold Librarian, Pen Flinger, and Tour Guide. Tour Guide is not directly a self-harm card, but it allows you to prepare a 0-cost hero power a turn in advance if you plan on going off with Darkglare in the following turn. 

Build options & tech cards for Wild Pain Warlock

There are several different packages that people are trying on the ranked ladder currently. The two main styles of the deck are between more minions or including a small discard package. The “discard” package

Some players include more cards such as Doomguard and Nightshade Matron; however, this is something I would fit more into the traditional Discard Warlock archetype instead. In the coming week, we plan to update our previous all-you-need-to-know guide to Discard Warlock to make it up-to-date with the new expansion.

How many Giants do you need?

The number of Giants players include in their builds varies greatly. It is currently most common to play two copies of Flesh Giant and Molten Giant, however, some players cut one or more Molten Giants in favor of other tools. Personally, the lists I like playing include all four of the Giants. 

In my experience, they are the most vital part of the deck in matchups against otherwise difficult matchups such as Big Shaman and Raza Priest. In addition to this, the Molten Giants also drastically improve your matchup against the more “face” decks. One example of a “face” deck is Kingsbane Rogue. 

Being able to turn around the game and close it out fast completely reduces the infinite-value from Kingsbane drastically. 

Example decklists

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There are two different decklists I want to feature in this guide. I played this list on my legend climb, which I was first made aware of by the Iyingdi meta report about a week ago. Since the report, about a dozen different builds made it to the top ranks on the Chinese Hearthstone server. I used this particular list by CN_Soda on Twitter, who refers to the list as “CN Warlock.” 

The most surprising card to me in this list was the power of Spirit Bomb, a card I didn’t see included before in builds of the deck. Another notable inclusion is the two copies of Defile. Defile seems like a strange card at first, but it makes sense with the deck. Since you build the entire around Darkglare, and most of your early-game cards are part of that combo, you often don’t end up playing your 1-mana cards for early game tempo. 

Since you don’t often contest the board on turn one and two, defile becomes a much better card in matchups against decks such as Aggressive Druid or the Pirate decks such as Pirate Warrior and Kingsbane Rogue. While I can imagine this card loses some of its strength, once players start to play around the tech, I still believe it is worth playing. 

Another notable matchup where Defile shines is in the Mirror match. Since players don’t play around it, you sometimes get to deal with medium-sized Darkglare boards through Defile and Spirit Bomb, winning a surprising number of games. 

Hijo Rank 1 build

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The second build I think is worth discussing is the build Hijo recently used to reach rank 1 Legend, just as I’m writing this guide. His build of the deck is vastly different than what most lists play currently. 

Hijo’s build centers around the old card, Sense Demons, by including only four demon type minions in his entire deck. Darkglare and Flame Imp are both vital for the deck to function. So, by adding this additional draw engine for these particular cards, the deck’s consistency increases significantly.

Mulligan for Pain Warlock

This version of the deck on HSReplay was the closest build I could find to the deck featured in this guide. Since the deck is still relatively new, and so many different builds of the deck exist, the sample size is smaller than I would normally use. However, looking at the stats available to us, from around 800 games in Diamond through Legend, shows some interesting points. 

Let’s look at the cards that players keep too frequently first. The card that stands out right away is Tour Guide, an assumption I made playing the deck, confirmed by the statistics on HSReplay. 

Tour Guide is not a good target to resurrect with Raise Dead, so holding onto it in your opening hand simply reduces your chances of winning, quite drastically. Look, I’m not saying we shouldn’t play the card, quite the opposite. But, we shouldn’t be keeping the card, anywhere near the 78.8% of the time players keep it currently. 

Another example is the low win rate of Mortal Coil. While the card is great to cycle early on, it just doesn’t have that much impact overall. I would recommend you simply not keep Mortal Coil in your starting hand, at this time. However, there is an exception to this. In particular, against Rogue, where Mortal Coil gains greater value than against many other opponents through its ability to kill an early Buccaneer. 

Cards we should keep more often

On the other hand, however, there are also cards we should hold onto more often. The two notable examples of this point are Lesser Amethyst Spellstone and The Soularium. With the vastly disproportionate win rates to held percentages, this is something we should look into further. What is most likely going to happen, long term is that players keep cards such as the Soularium and Lesser Amethyst Spellstone more often if they already have a tool like Darkglare in their starting hand. 

Do we keep the Giants

The final point of the mulligan I want to touch on is the difference in winrate for Flesh Giant and Molten Giant in your starting hand. Personally, the only time I have kept Molten Giant in my starting hand was against a player I knew was playing Pirate Warrior. Since I knew my life total would drop quickly, I felt it was worthwhile to keep this tool to sway the board state in the mid-game phase. 

On the other hand, Flesh Giant is a card I love to see whenever I have access to Darkglare. Since the deck has so much support for Darkglare, finding the threats to go alongside it is also important. 

The general strategy of the deck

The strategy of Pain Warlock revolves entirely around the card Darkglare. Because of its unique effect, you can chain together a sequence of cards, hero power, and minions to play far more than the regularly allowed amount of mana in a single turn. Cards such as Kobold Librarian, Pen Flinger, Spirit Bomb, and Flame Imp all generate one additional mana where other tools such as your hero power, or Vulgar Homonculus are effectively free to play when Darkglare is available on the board. 

Your main damage source, the Molten and Flesh Giants, becomes incredibly low-cost minions by combining the healing and damaging effects. It is possible to play several Giants as early as turn three, with the right cards and setup. This setup potential allows you to be more explosive than nearly any other deck in Hearthstone. 

However, in the first two turns of the game, you play the game quite differently than the historical Zoo Warlock decks. Since our deck is closer to a combo deck than a tempo deck, we don’t rely on playing minions on turn one and two. Instead, you often avoid playing anything on turn one, and hero power on the second turn of the game. The exception for this is playing minions you want access to for Raise Dead. 

The most notable exception to this is if you need to kill a priority target with Pen Flinger. Priority targets in the current meta include Gibberling from Druid and Buccaneer from Rogue. 

Matchups & Meta

I can’t give too many insights on particular matchups at this point. My sample size with these particular lists is still too small, and I simply haven’t faced most decks you might encounter. (Though, if you are reading this later than the upload date, it might be updated)

There is a card I want to discuss that significantly impacts your matchup against both Raza Priest and the mirror matches. This card, is Enhance-o Mechano. Enhance-o Mechano is probably the most criminally underrated card currently in the Wild Meta in Europe. Many players have included this tech in their builds of Warlock in China, but it just hasn’t caught on yet from what I can tell in the west. The card improves your difficult matchups by granting things Divine Shield, Windfury, or Taunt. 

One notable thing Enhance-o Mechano did for me is to win more consistently against Priest, in particular, since Pain Warlock’s threats are limited. In about ten of the games I played so far with the deck, Enhance-o Mechano allowed me to close out games I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to or reduced a significant amount of comeback potential for my opponents. 

Conclusion

The new Darkglare Pain Warlock deck is a strong contender to become the single best deck in the format. With a lot of skill expression and a lot of flexibility in the deck’s builds, it’s quickly becoming the favorite deck of many players in the Scholomance Academy expansion. Do be aware of the potential counters against which the deck struggles. The most notable one is a deck such as Odd or Deadman’s Hand Warrior. 

It will be exciting to find out which of the builds of Darkglare Pain Warlock settles on, and how players adjust it to gain an advantage in the upcoming meta. For more interesting Hearthstone decks, take a look at the Card game dictionary by Maym.