This specific list is a hybrid hand/demonlock list, which I was able to pilot to 68 EU and 116 on NA at the end of last season.
The most important features of this list is that there are FIVE 4-drops and SIX demons (including Voidcallers), which I am convinced are the right numbers to retain an important feature in any list: consistency.
Why FIVE 4-drops and SIX demons?
A typical handlock deck runs FOUR 4-drops, two Mountain Giants and two Twilight Drakes. In a game where a Handlock player’s first play can typically be playing one of these minions, there is a high likelihood that the player will have at least one of these 4-drops. With this fact in mind, I initially experimented with a list that had 4 4-drops, but instead having two Voidcallers and one Mountain Giant and Twilight Drake each, and 3 other demons (Lord Jaraxxus, Mal’Ganis, Dread Infernal) for a total of five demons. The problem I inevitably ran into was that while I would draw the Voidcaller frequently, I often would not have a demon to pair with it, and I was forced into trying to bluff an opponent into ignoring the Voidcaller. Unfortunately, opponents would kill the Voidcaller more often than not, with the rationale likely being that they would not want to give me the choice of demon I wanted brought out from the Voidcaller’s deathrattle, and I would just be left with nothing. Having SIX demons also increases the likelihood that you have a demon in hand by the time you have Voidcaller.
I noticed Dr. Boom isn’t in the deck? What gives?
Dr. Boom was cut in favor of another Dread Infernal to increase the demon count. Consistency of deck was a priority over the sheer power of Dr. Boom himself.
Our favorite giggling goblin didn't make the cut
Can I run 2x Mortal Coil instead of Zombie Chow?
You certainly can - the reason why I made this change is that in the event that Mortal Coil doesn’t have a good target in the early game, the Zombie Chow can be played almost unconditionally on 3, especially on coin. I found myself unable to tap on 3 many times with coin because my hand would be so clogged. This is especially the case since there are no Ancient Watchers or Earthen Ring Farseer in the list.
Why do you have 2x BGH? (Also with Abusive Sergeant commentary)
I’ve always been comfortable with Handlock having two cards that generally function as hard removal. The general configuration was BGH/Siphon, which is a valid combination. However, I only find Siphon to be useful at its mana cost for killing Ysera, and I haven’t seen many decks running Ysera except for Control Warrior, which already is an archetype that is not as common in today’s meta. Although you wouldn’t frequently run into matches where both BGH’s are required, still having one when it is most needed justified the inclusion of both. It is also why Abusive Sergeant is included in the deck, to help take out Loatheb and Emperor Thaurissan. The 2nd BGH can also be played as a vanilla 4/2 in hyper aggressive matchups.
Don’t most Handlock lists run THREE AOE’s? Why only two?
This is true, and this was one of the harder cuts to make before I saw another Hand/Demonlock list released by Amnesiasc. The rationale behind this change is - I consider the 5 4-drop/6 demon configuration the most important priority for this deck, and the only matchups that you would miss 3 AOE’s is against Zoo and Midrange Paladin. In addition, the Dread Infernal also serves as a soft 1-damage AOE, which would be effective against boards you would want to use Hellfire/Shadowflame against anyway (Implosion-filled boards or Muster for Battle).
Why only 1 mountain giant?
Since the deck lacks watchers, it is extremely difficult to control hyper-aggressive decks (Face Hunter, Aggro Paladin). This was the “four” drop that is the least flexible, since it is virtually unplayable against hyper-aggressive decks (can’t be coined, can’t be played if a Darkbomb is used, etc.)
Difficult matchup because of opponents ability to take initiative early with Wild Growth, get repetitive damage with midgame minions, effective removals for your 4 drops with BGH and Keeper of the Grove, and finish you off with Force of Nature / Savage Roar combo. This list has more success vs Druid than standard Handlock because of the Voidcaller.
Mulligan for any four drop exclusively. Keep a high cost demon (Dread Infernal, Jaraxxus, Malganis) if you already have Voidcaller. Play potential high quality taunt minions (Twilight Drake, Mountain Giant) on the right side for potential Voidcaller deathrattles.
Lord Jaraxxus is your best friend if you can bring it out from a Voidcaller and pair it with a Sunfury Protector or Defender of Argus. Play around combo pretty conservatively, but take an aggressive approach once you can taunt. Also be wary of the occasional Mind Control Tech.
Aggressively mulligan for Mortal Coil, Zombie Chow, Darkbomb. Keep Molten Giant. Trust that your deck will provide Healbot and Sunfury Protector or Defender of Argus, as Healbot on its own is not enough if the board is not initially controlled.
Very difficult matchup because you not only need to have a perfect set of cards (Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Molten, Taunt Giver, Healbot), but for your opponent to also not have a good curving start and answers to your eventual taunt minions. Also, the lack of watchers make your mulligan less likely to find good answers.
Play Sunfury Protector on turn 2 or coin it on Turn 1 if you think it can help reduce repetitive damage from early game minions, effectively buying you more turns and increasing the likelihood that you can draw into another Taunt giver.
If you are running into Face Hunters frequently, consider replacing 1x BGH, 1x Dread Infernal, and Abusive Sergeant for 2x Imp Gang Boss and 1x Earthen Ring Farseer.
Mulligan for Mortal Coil, Zombie Chow, and Darkbomb. Keep a 4-drop if you have any one of the priority mulligan cards. You might find yourself mulliganing as if it were a Face Hunter because you most likely won’t know your opponent is a Midrange Hunter unless you played your opponent the game before.
This matchup is much slower than the Face Hunter and that generally bodes well for Handlock in general. Consider using your Silence effects less liberally, i.e. not on Haunted Creepers and Mad Scientists, in favor of saving them for more resilient threats like Savannah Highmane or a beast buffed by Houndmaster. Don’t attack with 4-drops if a Secret is up, as it most likely will be a Freezing Trap; try to set up a Sunfury Protector to disarm Freezing Traps; ideally taunting two minions so that you are not vulnerable to an opponent’s Silence or Hunter's Mark.
Mulligan aggressively for a 4-drop. Keep a high cost demon if you have Voidcaller already.
This list is stronger against Control Warriors than standard Handlock since there are no Watchers in the deck; you can typically put out just enough minions to pressure them and still have enough threats to reload after a Brawl. It is important that you don’t overextend into a Brawl; most Control Warriors are now running two Brawls because of Patron Warrior. Tap aggressively so that you will likely have minions to play for Control Warrior to respond to. Ysera is the toughest card to deal with; try to pressure the Control Warrior’s life total such that Ysera can’t generate enough value to win a game. One way to do so is to Abusive Sergeant and BGH a Shieldmaiden or Loatheb, creating a board that is difficult for the Warrior to deal with in the short term while simultaneously removing a semi-premier threat. Also, if the opponent is greedy with his Brawl, consider timing a Loatheb on Turn 9 or before to prevent Brawl.
Mulligan aggressively for a 4-drop. Keep Ironbeak Owl regardless of the rest of the hand. Keep a high cost demon if you have Voidcaller already.
Use Ironbeak Owl or Darkbomb to shut down an Acolyte of Pain over developing a 4-drop. Patron Warriors typically only run 2 Executes as removal, so getting multiple 4-drops is key in pressuring their life total. Consider dropping Loatheb if your current board can pull off a two-turn lethal. In the endgame, try to create a taunt board with minions that have more than 5 health, as a couple of whirlwinds and 1 Grim Patron can destroy a taunt minion with 5 health, although an Emperor Thaurissan that is played at any point usually can spell doom for your chances, particularly if an Execute is still available. Taunting a Voidcaller with Mal’Ganis in hand can improve your chances against an Frothing Berserker OTK attempt.
If you find yourself running into this archetype a lot, consider replacing the Abusive Sergeant with Acidic Swamp Ooze.
Mulligan aggressively for any 4-drop. Keep a high cost demon if Voidcaller already is in hand.
Even as Priests are now equipped with Lightbomb, this matchup still remains highly favored for you because of one card: Lord Jaraxxus. It allows you to overwhelm the Priest with threats that their removal cannot keep up with. Additionally, their lack of burst usually cannot pressure you sufficiently. Play Twilight Drake first almost exclusively if you have choices between differing 4-drops; it is only weak to Deathlords with Northshire Cleric hiding behind it and Vol’jin.
Mulligan for Hellfire, Zombie Chow, and 4-drops. Keep high cost demons with Voidcaller. Keep Ironbeak Owl and Darkbomb if you already have a 4-drop.
This matchup is a little bit easier than it would be with standard Handlock because your 4-drops aren’t as effectively dealt with. If Voidcallers are silenced, they’re not immediately dead as Twilight Drakes are, and can still help control smaller minions and totems on the board. The priority is to keep the board clear with any minions you have available on the board; the typical exception to this would be with Mountain Giant since 8 damage sends a message to your opponent that you can threaten lethal soon and may force him or her into awkward plays.
Your owls will typically be used on Flametongue Totems and possibly Mana Tide Totem.
Mulligan for Hellfire, Zombie Chow, Darkbomb, and Ironbeak Owl. Keep Voidcaller, and any high cost demon if you already have Voidcaller.
This matchup is fast-paced and can get out of control quickly. You will hope to at least have an Ironbeak Owl, but preferably a Darkbomb, if you see a turn 2 Whirling Zap-O-Matic. If you can control the board early without taking too much damage your 4-drops can be effective at helping you turn the game around. Most Mech Shamans are running at least one Earth Shock, so if your Twilight Drake hasn’t already been shut down then you could be in trouble even hiding behind a Molten Giant. Also, the high number of burn spells that they run make it difficult to taunt and Healbot on the same turn. Your hope is that they just can’t finish you off before you can taunt and stabilize life total.
Mulligan aggressively for Darkbomb, Ironbeak Owl, and Hellfire.
A difficult matchup because of the exceptionally effective early drops in Mana Wyrm, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and Flamewaker, particularly if they can play them on curve. Use Darkbomb on Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and save Ironbeak Owl for Flamewaker as it is difficult to clear with one AOE or Darkbomb. Mirror Entity is a difficult secret with this deck; you can maybe give them a Voidcaller or an Ironbeak Owl in the best case scenario.
If you are running into Tempo Mages frequently, consider replacing 1x BGH, 1x Dread Infernal, and Abusive Sergeant for 2x Imp Gang Boss and 1x Earthen Ring Farseer.
Mulligan aggressively for 4-drops. Keep high cost demons if you have Voidcaller. Keep Ironbeak Owl if you have at least one 4-drop. Use Ironbeak Owl only on Doomsayer, not Mad Scientist or Acolyte of Pain. There are very few situational exceptions to this.
A very favored matchup for this list. Not only do you have two Antique Healbots and Loatheb, but Voidcallers make your board very difficult to clear with their board clear mechanisms (Frost Nova & Doomsayer; Blizzard & Flamestrike 2-turn setups). Additionally, Mal’Ganis simultaneously prevents lethal attempts as well as drains them of their limited damage resources they need to get lethal.
Mulligan aggressively for 4-drops. If you already have a 4-drop, keep Darkbomb to remove the likely tempo 3-drop (Earthen Ring Farseer, SI:7 Agent).
Aim to keep the board clear at almost all times. Mountain Giant will typically go face almost every time except if it is the only option to remove an Azure Drake, since spell power is very dangerous in the hands of an Oil Rogue. Get a key taunt turn to prevent lethal setups from Oil Rogue, and try to time Loatheb at a key point where you can either set up lethal or set up a board state that the Oil Rogue cannot recover from.
Mulligan for Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, and Zombie Chow. Keep Hellfire, any 4-drop and a high cost demon if you already have Voidcaller.
This matchup is difficult because of the Midrange Paladin’s ability to get an early aggressive start, putting a lot of pressure on your life total by Turn 4 or 5. The Midrange Paladin can also neutralize your first 4-drop with either Silence, Big Game Hunter, or Aldor Peacekeeper, and can get past last ditch defensive attempts (Molten Giant(s) and Taunt) with Equality and/or Consecration. You can find yourself in a good position if you can stabilize board and life with Healbot and run the Midrange Paladin low on cards.
Mulligan for Mortal Coil, Darkbomb, Zombie Chow, Ironbeak Owl, and Molten Giant.
An extremely difficult matchup because of their ability to flood the board before we can react to it, and they have a variety of charge minions to finish you off. Also, if they have Divine Favor, they will usually get a lot of value from it, either drawing into answers or being able to reload after seemingly running out of steam. Molten Giant and/or Voidcaller Taunt boards are what you are looking to get out to stabilize, and hoping that they don’t have Equality or Ironbeak Owl to get past them.
If you are running into Aggro Paladins frequently, consider replacing 1x BGH, 1x Dread Infernal, and Abusive Sergeant for 2x Imp Gang Boss and 1x Earthen Ring Farseer.
Mulligan for Darkbomb, Ironbeak Owl, and Hellfire. Keep Molten Giant.
This matchup is favored because of the manner in which Zoo deals damage, which ramps up slowly and does not generally feature unpredictable burst. This plays well into being able to setting up a potential taunted Molten Giant board very mana efficiently.
Mulligan for any 4-drop and if you have one, keep any removal (Ironbeak Owl, Big Game Hunter) if you are sure your opponent is Handlock.
Even with one Mountain Giant, you are still in a good position to win this matchup if you play it slowly. What favors you most is having two Big Game Hunters. You generally aren’t looking to pressure your opponents life total, but rather aiming to get your Molten Giants playable first (which Zombie Chow coincidentally helps you with) and eventually overwhelming your opponent’s removal capability either via Lord Jaraxxus or a key Loatheb timed drop.
And that’s it! I know that was a lot of information and a lot of the smaller details obviously could not be covered in the article’s small scope. It takes playing to gain experience and develop some of the instincts required to make proper decisions on difficult turns.
I wish all of you guys the best on your ladder endeavors,