”We’re gonna be rich!”
Greetings, dear readers, and welcome to another definitive guide, the MSG edition, something that I’m aiming to make a weekly series. I know that I’ve skipped last week but hopefully this guide will be good enough to make up for it.
In the last definitive guide we took a look at all things dragon, how are dragons doing in the current metagame and what will happen to them post rotation. This week we’re going to take a look at the man who makes aggro players cry, reno-jackson. One thing that Reno decks and dragon decks have in common is that they both are going to die out when the rotation hits next April and since Reno decks have never been more popular than this month this is a perfect opportunity to have a in depth talk about one of the most unique deck archetypes in the game, the highlander deck.
With the introduction out of the way, sit back, relax and get ready for a wall of tex…I mean, lets dive right into this! 🙂
Let’s begin with the very basics on what a highlander decks is, what are the pros and cons of a highlander deck and why can some classes pull off this type of deck while others can’t. In this section I’ll be covering just about everything concerning the basics that every player who is new to highlander decks should know. If you’re more interested in deck construction and card choices, you can find those in the next section.
What is a highlander deck? A highlander deck is deck that runs only a single copy of each card in it. The name ”highlander” is a reference to the popular film franchise Highlander and the its most famous phrase ”There can be only one.” is the basis behind the rules of the deck construction.
My first experience with a highlander deck was over a game of Magic: The Gathering, the grandfather of trading card games and, as far as I’m aware, the originator of the highlander decks. Highlander decks in Magic: The Gathering follow the same rule as its Hearthstone counterparts which is that you can’t have any duplicates in your deck with the exception of basic land cards because you need those to play the game. The highlander decks grew in popularity over the years to such an extent that Wizards of the Coast, a company that makes Magic: The Gathering¸ had eventually made an entire format, known as Commander, where the only legal decks are highalnder decks. While the format itself is not competitive nor tournament supported it is the most community loved format in the entire game.
When it comes to Hearthstone there were no highlander decks for a very long time because the players didn’t have any cards to support that deck style. Yes, there were players who were experimenting with highalnder decks, myself included, but it was impossible to make them function in a competitive environment. This, however, changed in November last year when League of Explorers was announced during the Blizzcon 2015 Hearthstone panel live stream and we were presented with reno-jackson.
For those of you who weren’t playing the game at that period of time, there was an infestation of powerful aggressive decks, along with secret paladin, and the players had demanded some new cards to counter those aggressive decks. Blizzard had delivered its answer in the form of reno-jackson who didn’t only made aggro decks disappear for a while but also spawned a completely new type of deck, the highlander deck, which is commonly referred to as a Reno deck.
Players have soon noticed a problem with Reno decks and that problem was that not all classes could pull the off effectively and after a brief time the only class that could use reno-jackson to its full potential was warlock. Blizzard had noticed this and gave us a solution to that problem in the form of kazakus and the Kabal gang from the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion which came out this December. Instead of making reno-jackson viable in each class, they have decided to give us support cards for 3 classes which had managed to make at least a semi functional Reno deck in the past and which already have a strong support for control decks. Those classes are mage, priest and warlock. That leaves us at the present day.
I’m rich and you’re not
Although reno-jackson was printed as a neutral solution to the aggro problem some classes had a very hard time making it work which just led to them dropping the archetype completely. In order to understand the basic principles of a Reno deck you must first understand why did this happen?
Powerful class cards are the very backbone of every Reno deck. Most Reno decks today are made mostly out of class cards with a handful of neutral cards. Now, I think that we can all agree that each class has its own unique set of powerful class cards, at least basic cards and cards from the evergreen classic set, but the problem here is that not all classes have class cards that are well suited for a Reno deck.
Reno decks are, in their very nature, control decks that aim to beat their opponents in the late game and while some classes have very powerful mid to late game class cards others do not. Hunter is the perfect example. Hunter’s most powerful class cards are 1, 2 and 3 drops with a very few exceptions like houndmaster and savannah-highmane. The problem here is that those 1, 2 and 3 drops, especially when you can’t have any duplicates in your deck, aren’t going to be too useful in the long run. Those cards aren’t even meant to be cards for a control deck and that’s the problem. You see, while hunter, a class that had never managed to pull off a competitive Reno deck, has powerful early game cards which aren’t suited for a control deck, warlock, a class that has the single most powerful Reno deck in the game, has powerful cards in all costs and a lot of them are perfectly suited for a control deck.
It basically boils down to the very nature of each class. When I first began writing for this site I’ve made an article titled ”Congratulations! It’s a…” and it was about class identity (you can find it here). There I’ve gave you my opinion on the identity of each class and now, while writing this article, I find myself going back and re-reading my first article to find clues that will lead me to the very source of the ”why can’t every class run a Reno deck” problem which, in the end, is actually the class identity. Some classes can’t run a Reno deck because it is simply against their very nature.
Hunter and rogue are a great example (yes, I am aware that some of you have been experimenting with a rogue Reno deck). Hunter is a class that uses aggression to heavily punish your opponents most for making mistakes and regains tempo through that aggression while rogue is a class that gains tempo through spells and strong spell synergy. Neither of those two are suited for a late game control deck which can’t run duplicates in the deck. Mage, priest and warlock, on the other hand, have had control decks in the past and they have the tools necessary to make a late game control deck. Warrior is another perfect example of a control oriented class which could run a Reno deck but doesn’t because the armor mechanic is far more useful than HP and thus Reno isn’t really useful in warrior decks.
Pros and cons of a Reno deck
The most common question that we all ask when we start a deck construction is ”why should I play this deck?” and now let me tell you why you should and why you shouldn’t play a Reno deck.
Flexible: Reno decks are extremely flexible deck. Once you put in all the cards that you absolutely must have you are often left with somewhere between 10-7 free spots to fill with any cards that you want. Sure, not all cards are equally viable, but this is enough free spots to allow you to really customize your deck and try to pull something new. A good example is the Reno priest which is a deck that mostly runs dragons, but there are versions of it that run shadowform, even two copies of it, which presents the player with a different playstyle.
Control deck: Control decks aren’t for everyone, just like aggro decks aren’t for everyone, but if you’re someone who loves to play control decks than this one is perfect for you. Reno decks, especially Reno warlock, are among the most powerful control decks in the game simply because they provide you with so much different tools to solve so many different problems, amazing healing, great late game potential and insane flexibility. Reno warlock, for instance, even fairs quite well against other control decks thanks to lord-jaraxxus and its hero power.
Extremely hard to counter: Countering a Reno deck, especially Reno warlock, is extremely hard not only because these decks have the single best healing card in the entire game but because they are so flexible and have a giant toolbox for getting them out of almost every situation. They can sometimes be countered by simply rushing and killing them before turn 6 but that is not always the case. These decks are extremely adaptable to the current metagame.
Unique experience: Constructing and playing a Reno deck provides a player with a unique experience that can’t be found anywhere else in Hearthstone. You’re constructing and playing a highlander deck, something that usually requires much thought and skill to do, and decision making during the game is made even more fun/challenging when you know that you can play a card only once and that you need to hit the perfect timing to do so. It is both fun and challenging experience that is unique to Reno decks.
Meta slowing decks: Reno decks are usually on the rise when the metagame becomes too fast and too aggressive. Because they have so much healing in them they easily force aggressive decks out of the metagame which is good for all those players who can’t stand aggressive decks. If you’re one of them and want to give them a hard time, well, Reno decks are the decks for you.
Hard to pilot: All highlander decks, with this one being no exception, are really hard to pilot. If you’re on the receiving end it probably doesn’t look like that to you but the guy/girl that you’re playing against most likely having a hard time figuring out which cards to mulligan for, when to use the hero power and when is the best time to play some cards. If you’ve played a few matches with a Reno deck than you know that they are the second hardest decks to pilot after combo decks.
Hard to build: Reno decks aren’t just hard to play but hard to build as well. Yes, they are extremely flexible, but with that flexibility comes a ton of decision making. Knowing which cards to put into your deck while keeping in mind that you can play only a single copy of each card and deciding what to keep and what to throw out is certainly not easy. Experienced players have it easier but this can be a nightmare for the new players.
Expensive: Last but not least, Reno decks are the most expensive decks in the standard format and probably the second in the wild format just after wallet warrior. Yes, you can get reno-jackson very easy but getting other cards that you need can and will cost you a lot of dust. There are a lot of epic and legendary cards in these decks which makes these decks not easily accessible for the new players.
Types of Reno decks
Before I dive into the last part of this section, let me make one thing very clear. I don’t play Reno mage, I don’t think that it is a good deck and my experience with it is next to none. I need to mention this because from this point forward I will mostly be talking about Reno priest and Reno warlock.
Reno decks, because they are control decks, are by their very nature really defensive decks. However, we can expand on that even further and if we do we can identify two significally different types of these defensive decks: the reactor and the initiator.
Reno priest is what I would call the reactor. It is a type of Reno deck that is defensive to the very extreme. It barely ever takes the initiative and instead uses its tools to answer everything that its opponent plays in hopes of eventually burning them out of resources to remove their late game threats. If Reno decks aim to play the long game than this one aims to play the loooooooong game. While it is quite hard to beat a reactor Reno deck it does have its problems which is the lack of cards that can actually win you the game which is one of the reasons why some people nowadays are even running shadowform in their deck. In the current metagame the one deck that gives the reactor Reno deck a hard time is the Jade Golem druid because it is a deck that becomes more powerful as the game goes on and the reactor has no way of dealing with it. The initiator, on the other hand, is a whole different story.
Reno warlock is what I would call the initiator. It is a perfect mix of offense and defense at the same time. The initiator runs a lot of cards that provide solid defense in the form of offense. Perfect examples of those cards are abyssal-enforcer and hellfire. The initiator always runs multiple more offensive ways to end the game like leeroy-jenkins + power-overwhelming + faceless-manipulator combo or ragnaros while the reactor prefers cards like ysera. I’ve mentioned Jade Golem druid as a deck that beats Reno priest with ease. Although both Reno priest and Reno warlock are late game decks, Reno warlock actually fairs a lot better against Jade Golem druid because it actually has ways of beating it before it spirals out of control.
Building a rich enterprise
We’re at the halfway point of this guide and after finally getting all the basics out of the way it is time for some deck building tips and tricks to help all of you veteran and new Reno players. If you’re looking for specific decklists I’ll provide you with links to those at the end of this section without talking much about any of them because I’ve already covered them multiple times in my previous articles.
Cards to play in a Reno deck
There are many different types of card effects out there such as cards that deal damage, cards that draw you more cards, cards that remove other cards, cards that heal you and many other. Reno decks basically take all of those different types of cards and put them into one (perfectly)balanced 30 card package. Let’s take a look at all the different card types that you’ll need to use in your Reno deck and the best cards in those card types.
AoE spells: We begin with one of the most important (in my opinion) card type in a Reno deck which is the AoE (area of effect) spell. Because you’re playing a control deck you’re aiming for the long game and most of your better cards will get to truly shine at some point pass turn 7. The problem, however, is surviving until the late game, especially when you have to be extremely careful with how you spend your resources. It is not uncommon to have your opponent being the one controlling the board at the early-mid stages of the game and if you can’t regain board control then you are probably going to lose. This is where AoE spells come into play. Their job is to clear your opponent’s board and thus buy you time. Each Reno deck runs 3 of these and at least 1 minion with an AoE effect.
AoE spells: hellfire, demonwrath, felfire-potion, blizzard, flamestrike, volcanic-potion, holy-nova, excavated-evil, dragonfire-potion.
AoE minions: Chillmaw, baron-geddon, abyssal-enforcer
Card draw cards: Card draw is crucial in a Reno deck. Since you’re running only a single copy of each card in your deck it is wildly important that you can get the cards that you need on time. While mage and priest have various forms of card draw spells, warlock doesn’t run any because its hero power (pay 2 life: draw a card) completely overshadows card draw spells. This is one of the reasons why warlock has been the Reno top dog for such a long time. Usually you will run around 2 or 3 card draw spell and/or minions in your Reno deck to refill your hand and help you get what you need. Mage is severely lacking in this department because while it has a way to draw cards it is a one-time deal while priest has a minion that allows it to draw multiple cards.
Card draw cards: arcane-intellect, northshire-cleric, azure-drake, bloodmage-thalnos, power-word-shield
Optional card draw cards: loot-hoarder, acolyte-of-pain, novice-engineer
Healing cards: You want to survive until the late game, yes? Good, but be sure that reno-jackson alone won’t help you achieve that. reno-jackson might be enough against some aggressive decks but generally you will want more forms of healing, especially if you’re playing a Reno warlock. Reno decks usually run 2 of these along reno-jackson and Reno warlock needs them the most because of the constant use of its hero power.
Healing cards: earthen-ring-farseer, mistress-of-mixtures, refreshment-vendor, reno-jackson.
Board clears: Now, there is a very thin line between a powerful AoE spell and a board clear. While, in most cases, it might seem as the AoE card is the board clear of the deck it won’t always necessary clear the entire board. You want at least one card that can clear the entire board if you ever find yourself in a situation where your AoE spells just won’t do the trick. Every Reno deck runs 1 mandatory board clear with the exception of Reno warlock which runs up to 3.
Board clears: doomsayer, shadowflame, twisting-nether
Taunt minions: Taunt minions are extremely valuable in a Reno deck because of the protection that they provide. Don’t ever underestimate the value of a good taunt minion because having a taunter on the board will more often than not save you from a sudden burst of damage while just having a ”good amount of health” won’t always do the trick. Most Reno decks nowadays run 2 neutral taunt minion with the exception of Reno priest which runs up to 4 taunt minions.
Taunt minions: dirty-rat, second-rate-bruiser, wrymrest-agent, twilight-guardian
Tech cards: Tech cards are probably the most flexible field of Reno deck construction. Most of the time the choices simply rely on the current metagame but there are also some cards like sylvanas-windrunner that have become a staple tech card. You don’t need all of these in your deck. These are more often than not cards that fill in the empty deck spots.
Tech cards: sylvanas-windrunner, mind-control-tech, emperor-thaurissan, kazakus, defender-of-argus, sunfury-protector, acidic-swamp-ooze, faceless-shambler, faceless-manipulator, power-overwhelming, justicar-trueheart, raza-the-chained, inkmaster-solia, nzoth-the-corruptor
Removal cards: By removal cards I mean the single target removal cards or cards that, unlike AoE and boar clears, remove a single minion. These cards are very important and you’ll more often than not play more of them than your AoE spells. Note that all removal cards are class cards which is why some Reno decks play more of them while some play less.
Removal cards: mortal-coil, shadow-bolt, siphon-soul, shadow-word-pain, shadow-word-death, entomb, frostbolt, fireball, arcane-blast, firelands-portal, pyroblast
Substitute cards: Substitute cards are what I call cards that give you additional cards that aren’t in your deck. These cards either give you one or more cards at random or let you discover one or more cards. While not particularly powerful, these cards provide you with the advantage of not having to include too many optional cards in your deck because with them you always get a chance of getting what you need.
Substitute cards: dark-peddler, kabal-chemist, kabal-courier, kazakus, cabalists-tome, babbling-book, spellslinger, firelands-portal, kabal-trafficker
End game minions: Last but not the least are your big endgame minions which will help you win the game. These are legendary minions with very powerful effects. You need to win the games somehow so why not go big while doing that? Most of Reno decks run about 3 of these. This is the list of some of them that I’ve personally encountered and used.
End game minions: lord-jaraxxus, archamge-antonidas, ragnaros-the-firelord, ysera, leeroy-jenkins, nefarian, deathwing
List of Reno decks
As promised, I will provide you with links to the current best Reno mage, Reno priest and Reno warlock decks. If you wish to learn more about them then please check this article where I go into more detail regarding each deck.
The future of Reno decks
This is the last section of this article and what better way to end it than with a brief talk about the future of Reno decks. I’ve been over this topic a couple of times before, but every article is someone’s first so this is for those who don’t know about where I stand when it comes to the future of Reno decks.
I’m absolutely positive that Reno decks will die out once the standard rotation hits in April. All of these decks lack survivability and even with all these new cards that we were given it is still not enough to compensate for the loss of reno-jackson. No, I don’t believe that Blizzard will move reno-jackson to the classic set because that defeats the purpose of a ever rotating format. Nor do I believe that reno-jackson will be reprinted and if they are already reprinting cards than there are some other cards, like loatheb, that I would love to see first. Lastly, I do believe that they might make a smaller version of reno-jackson to compensate for the loss of the original one but I don’t want this to happen because, for those who don’t know, I am a wild player first and a standard player second, and having two Reno’s in a wild deck will do horrible things for the format.
We’ve reached the end of the article. Before I go I would like to mention that I do seek to make the definitive guides a weekly series and that I would love for you to leave your suggestions on which definitive guide do you wish to see next. Writing these guides is a lot of work but it is rewarding knowing that it had helped some of you and that you’ve enjoyed reading them.
What are your opinions on various Reno decks? Which is your favorite Reno deck? Do you think about having a smaller Reno once the original one rotates out? Leave your opinions and feedback in the comments below. As always if you’ve liked this article do consider following me on twitter https://twitter.com/Eternal_HS. There you can ask me all sorts of Hearthstonequestions (unrelated to this article) and I’ll gladly answer them as best as I can.