Handlock is one of the most unique deck archetypes in all of Hearthstone, taking specific advantage of the Warlock's Life Tap to manipulate two alternate resources - health and hand size - in ways that interact with a particular subset of minions to great effect. It is highly effective against many popular Druid, Priest, Rogue, Warlock (Zoo), and Warrior decks.

Deck Composition

The mandatory cards in any Handlock card are:

2x Soulfire
1x Mortal Coil
2x Ancient Watcher
2x Ironbeak Owl
2x Sunfury Protector
2x Earthen Ring Farseer
1x Hellfire
1x Shadowflame
1x Defender of Argus
2x Twilight Drake
1x Faceless Manipulator
1x Loatheb
2x Sludge Belcher
1x Siphon Soul
1x Lord Jaraxxus
2x Mountain Giant
2x Molten Giant

That is a total of 26 cards! There is surprisingly little variation from one Handlock deck to the next. The style relies on having these cards in tandem because most of them interact with either the Warlock's cards in hand, health pool, or are critical removal. The ability to give existing minions Taunt or to silence a key minion can also be the difference between winning a game or losing it.

Most of those variants will do some combination of the following:

- add a second Mortal Coil
- add a second Hellfire
- add a second Shadowflame*
- add a second Defender of Argus*
- add a second Siphon Soul*
- add a Power Overwhelming*
- add a Big Game Hunter
- add a Sylvanas Windrunner*
- add a Ragnaros the Firelord

* recommended additions

There are other options, but this archetype is more rigid than most due to the highly specific nature of its resource manipulation and card interactions. Older versions of this deck frequently featured Leeroy Jenkins as a finisher, but this is quite uncommon since the mana cost change from 4 to 5.

New! Several of the strong Goblins vs. Gnomes cards could also make appearances in this style:

Darkbomb
Recombobulator
Antique Healbot
Dr. Boom

 

Playstyle, Tips, and Notes

In order to successfully learn Handlock, you will need to become very, very accomplished at identifying situations in which your opponent could deal lethal damage. We've created a handy resource showcasing various damage combinations by class and mana cost - get familiar with it!

Your games should open consistently in the following fashion, if at all possible:
 
 

In the absence of those ideal plays, you will generally play cards as required to avoid losing cards to drawing when your hand is full, and Life Tap when you don't have other plays and have room in your hand and the health to do so.

 

Mulligans

Handlock has possibly the most aggressive mulligan requirements of any deck in the game. You always want to mulligan for Twilight Drake and Mountain Giant; if you have one or more of either or both, you can fish for more particular cards by matchup. Against what you anticipate to be extraordinarily aggressive decks (Hunter especially), holding a Molten Giant and searching for the Ancient Watcher/ Ironbeak Owl combination can be a good choice.

 

Combos and Counters

There aren't a huge number of truly specific 'combo' plays in Handlock. For example, you can use Shadowflame effectively off of any minion in play, depending on your opponent's board. Having said that, these are good setups to be aware of:

Ancient Watcher + Ironbeak Owl
Power Overwhelming + Shadowflame
Sylvanas Windrunner + Power Overwhelming
Sylvanas Windrunner + Shadowflame

As far as counters go, Siphon Soul is noteworthy. You will want to use them to handle different threats from different decks: Against aggro decks, you're using them to survive, while against control decks they're perfect hard removal. By the time you can play Siphon Soul, you'll know which type of deck you are up against, and can gauge accordingly.