Hey, guys. It’s RaFive, and today we’re going to talk about incorporating one of the most hotly debated cards in the game into one of the most hotly debated archetypes in the game. That’s right — we’re incorporating Sludge Belcher
This article will build on the modular deckbuilding concepts discussed in my article Evolutions of Zoo: Fundamentals, so it’s probably a good idea to quickly review.
In terms of a basic value test, Belcher looks solid but unexciting, and he also lacks any sort of flashy abilities or immediate impact. That’s why it’s so easy to miss the power of this card. What you’re really paying for with Belcher is two Taunts with one card, where one Taunt comes out only after the other one dies. It’s a reactive card that generates four notable advantages:
- Card advantage. Just like the Shaman’s Feral Spirit, Belcher gives you an extra minion without your having to put down an extra card, so with two Belchers in your deck, you’re effectively playing with 32 cards. This makes Belcher good for long games or overcrowded decks.
- Tempo drain. It generally takes at least two cards or two attacks of some kind in order to fully clear Belcher, which helps you recover tempo. Because of the asymmetric nature of Belcher’s two “forms,” clearing Belcher will frequently require inefficient trades, gaining further tempo advantage.
- Resists clear. Not only does Belcher generally take two steps to clear, the second part of Belcher doesn’t come out until the first part is dead. Unlike any other card in the game, Belcher leaves you with a Taunt in place after AoE or hard removal. That’s potentially invaluable no matter what kind of deck you’re playing — control decks get a stall, while aggro decks get protection behind which to trade or hit face.
- Deathrattle. Belcher buffs Undertaker. ‘Nuff said. (Belcher also interacts with Baron Rivendare, but you only get an additional 1 mana of value per Belcher death, which is too minimal and situational to be particularly advantageous.)
In short, Belcher is sticky, compact, and great at draining your opponent’s resources, making Belcher an ideal candidate for consideration in a Zoo list.
Belcher in Zoo
In Zoo decks, Belcher is basically an alternative pick for Defender of Argus
Defender of Argus
Now that we’ve gone in-depth and examined Sludge Belcher
- Shattered Sun Clericfits here because it compensates for Belcher’s lack of attack/health buffs, while Belcher in its turn helps take the place of Harvest Golemas a sticky minion with Deathrattle. It also improves your matchup against Priest by giving Cabal Shadow Priestand Shadow Madnessless to steal, which is important since both of those cards are significant threats to Belcher. It also makes Nerubian Eggmuch less likely to be a dead card in the earlier game, which is great for assembling the lineup of minions that Belcher will protect.
- Again, Belcher doesn’t buff attack, but Belcher is also a great wall to hide behind while your other minions trade or go for the face, so two copies each of Power Overwhelming, Abusive Sergeant, Dark Iron Dwarfmake sense. The Dwarf in particular gives you a solid body to play on curve right behind the Belcher.
- Belcher is slow, so instead of Ironbeak OwlI’ve included one copy of Shadowflameas a hedge against aggressive decks that combos well with Power Overwhelming(particularly if you use it on Nerubian Eggto get a free minion). For similar reasons, I’m also running one Zombie Chow— it’s good for early board control and also gives an extra Deathrattle for Undertakerto compensate for lack of Harvest Golemand raise the odds that Undertakerwill survive to be both buffed and defended by Belcher.
- Finally, I’ve — surprisingly enough! — discovered that Belcher raises the high-end of the deck enough where one Defender of Argusstill fits quite nicely. This is definitely the “techiest” spot in the deck, though, so you could easily swap the Defender out for another Zombie Chow, for a Void Terror, even for Loatheb, although there’s enough higher value in here that you could honestly take a Doomguardout and replace with Loatheb— I learned playing Hunter that Loathebinto Sludge Belcheris an incredibly strong play for face damage in most cases.
Playing this deck is standard Zoo, although with Shadowflame
As far as substitutions, you should use my previous Evolutions of Zoo article to give you ideas on what to tech out and what sort of thing to tech back into its place, but honestly, it’s a powerful deck in this meta and I wouldn’t change much other than maybe fitting Loatheb
If you’re looking to diversify your Zoo build and push it toward the midgame, there are few picks better than Sludge Belcher