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Handlock (also known as Hand Lock or previously Control Warlock, before the other control warlock decks existed) is a type of warlock control deck that commonly has a high number of cards in the hand, thus earning the name Handlock. Handlock uses synergy with high hand size and low Health to produce sudden and devastating board plays, while keeping itself narrowly out of reach of defeat. Handlocks rely on Taunts, limited removal and good healing in order to stay alive long enough to play out a flurry of powerful minions, with which they then tend to very quickly overwhelm the opponent.
With a dangerous relationship with Health, and a range of possible strategies to employ at any moment, Handlock is widely considered one of the most complex decks in Hearthstone.
Deck type[edit | edit source]
Handlocks focus on hand size and a low Health total to summon powerful minions such as Molten Giants, Mountain Giants and high-Health Twilight Drakes. Life Tap is used very frequently, in order to enable both hand size and Health-related effects. Sunfury Protector and Defender of Argus are used to grant Taunt to these high-Health minions, allowing the warlock to protect itself against attacks once its Health gets low.
Handlocks flirt with death by maintaining a deliberately low Health total. This allows them to play 2 Molten Giants in one turn, alongside a cheap Taunt-granting minion such as Sunfury Protector, quickly turning the game around. This play is usually the main win condition of the Handlock, with the opponent having already exhausted most of their resources to get that far.
However, arriving at this moment requires good planning, as well as some luck. The Handlock must first obtain the right cards, ready to play them when their Health reaches a sufficiently low level. More critically, while low Health is a requisite for the Molten Giant play, the Handlock must usually work fairly hard to stay alive during the mid-game, during which time it generally focuses purely on controlling the board.
Handlocks achieve board control through AoE removal and survivable, high-Health minions, often with Taunt. High Attack minions are also used, but these primarily come later as the Handlock approaches domination of the board. Shadowflame is a common Handlock board clear, especially useful when cast on high-Attack minions such as Giants or Twilight Drakes. Shadowflame is often used on turn 4-7 to clear the opponent's early board, in combination with a Twilight Drake or Ancient Watcher. Alternatively, Sunfury Protector or sometimes Defender of Argus can be used on minions like Ancient Watcher or an early Mountain Giant to soak attacks.
Ultimately, Handlocks aim to reduce their Health to around 10-15, making Molten Giants cheap or free to play, while staying just out of reach of enemy burst potential. However, this depends to some degree on the opponent's deck type, with some presenting too large a threat of burst to allow the Health to dip this low. With the right luck, a Handlock can draw the cards they need to play early on, and put them into play before the opponent has the chance to build a board to oppose the assault. Ironically, the main aggressive play of the Handlock is itself enabled by the attacks of the opponent, and the Handlock's ability to put its bigger pieces into play depends on the speed at which its Health is reduced, although they tend to contribute substantially to this themselves through liberal use of Life Tap.
Once the Handlock has made use of their low Health, healing such as Earthen Ring Farseer is often used to restore them to safer levels. There is often a delicate balance in predicting the burst capabilities of the opponent, and how low to take the Health before making the best possible play and then swiftly healing. However, since the Handlock often takes some time to find the desired cards, such healing is often used simply to prevent themselves from dying in the early to mid-game.
Lord Jaraxxus is an optional Handlock card, best played after effecting a full board clear. Jaraxxus' weapon Blood Fury provides a good source of immediate damage, while INFERNO! provides a win condition if the Handlock is not quickly defeated.
Counters[edit | edit source]
Handlocks can be recognized early on by their tendency to use Life Tap each turn during the early game. While a Zoolock aims to open with a flurry of small synergistic minions, Handlocks aim to draw cards and build their hand size as quickly as possible, and are quite happy to take damage in the process, as this unlocks their Molten Giants and makes their healing cards worth playing. For this reason many deck types intentionally avoid dealing damage to the Handlock during certain stages of game, in order to prevent them from playing multiple Molten Giants in one turn, and thus presenting a problematic barrier to minion and weapon attack.
Defeating a Handlock usually happens by one of two means: either the Handlock is defeated very quickly, before they are able to lay down Taunts, or draw Molten Giants, healing or removal; or the opponent steadily dismantles their play by methodically countering their key cards. Once a Handlock's Giants have been removed, the majority of its power is spent, and defeating it becomes a far more achievable goal.
A third approach to defeating a Handlock involves burst damage. With enough damage in hand a player can directly destroy a Handlock mid-game, due to the Handlock's tendency to hover at middling Health; a hunter with 2 x Kill Command and a Beast in hand, or a mage with a combination of direct damage spells, can burst the warlock down in a single turn, overcoming the wall of Taunts that may be facing them. Given the Handlock's tendency to self-harm using Life Tap, it is sometimes possible to defeat Handlocks mid-game in this way without having dealt any damage to them prior to this point.
Silences like Ironbeak Owl, Earth Shock and Mass Dispel are excellent counters to the Handlock's wall of Taunts, providing extra damage to reach lethal, since the Handlock will often rely on their Taunts to prevent damage from a board of minions, rather than attempting to remove them directly. The Handlock's Taunts can also be traded for or removed individually, but the key Handlock gambit is that once in play the opponent will not be able to remove them all before the opponent either runs out of resources, or is overrun.
The result of aggressive play against Handlocks is significantly affected by card draw, although many of the staple plays are fairly reliable responses. For example, an aggro deck may burst the Handlock down to 10 Health in the first few turns, only to have the Handlock play two Molten Giants and a Sunfury Protector, then heal themselves with an Earthen Ring Farseer, quickly going on to defeat the aggressor; while in another match this play could easily lead to a turn 5 victory. In other cases, a slower deck might tentatively reduce the Handlock's Health in order to avoid enabling its larger minions, only to discover that their hesitance has given the Handlock just the time it needed to locate its key cards.
Whichever approach is taken, care should be taken to reserve burst to reach beyond the Handlock's healing and Taunt capabilities, since damaging the Handlock prematurely simply increases its range of options. Often it is best to reserve damaging spells until after physical attacks are thwarted, since Handlock has no direct means of preventing defeat by such means.
Common Cards[edit | edit source]
The following cards are usually in the deck.
Core cards[edit | edit source]
The following cards are played in most or all versions of the deck:
Optional cards[edit | edit source]
The following cards are played more than occasionally, but not always:
Wild cards[edit | edit source]
- This section contains information exclusive to Wild format.
Wild cards that fit well into this deck type:
[edit | edit source]
- Hearthpwn.com - Handlock decks
- Reddit - Quick Beginner's Guide to Handlock
- Trump Deck Teachings - 11 - Handlock (Warlock)
|Common deck types|