With Reno decks being one of the most popular choices to ladder with, Kazakus has became a very common Legendary. For a good reason – if you play a Highlander style deck, there is just no reason to not include it. With a very powerful effect that you can scale depending on the matchup, it is a saving grace or even a win condition in many games.
However, at the same time, it’s one of the most complicated cards that Hearthstone ever had. With over 100 unique potion choices, it’s really easy to get lost. But it’s not only about the choice itself – it’s about making the best choice in the given situation and knowing when it’s worth to pick which effect and how can you combo Kazakus to make it even stronger. And that’s what I will be talking about in this article.
Besides that, I will give you one strong deck list from each class that plays Kazakus. Each of the decks was tested on the ladder and hit (or almost hit) Legend already.
Basic premise of the minion is very simple. You play an understatted 4-drop (3/3 for 4 mana), but you get to create your own spell, your own potion. After you drop Kazakus, you get greeted by the well-known Discover-like interface. You make 3 choices in total. First one is the mana cost, then the other two are the effects. You get 3 mana choices – 1 mana, 5 mana and 10 mana. Effects obviously scale with the mana cost, but the scaling is not as big as you might suspect. The 5 mana potion is generally about 2 times stronger than the 1 mana one and the 10 mana potion is 3 times stronger. It’s not a rule and it varies between the effects, but it should give you an overall understanding on how everything looks like.
Effects you pick always happen in the best possible order for the player, not in the order you pick them in. So for example, don’t worry about picking Mystic Wool after you’ve already picked Ichor of Undeath – the effects will switch around when the potion ends up in your hand. It reduces the number of potential outcomes, but makes the outcomes much stronger.
Here is a full list of possible effects you can get from Kazakus:
The chance to get a specific effect from either of the choices (for example getting Stonescale Oil) is 58% for the 1 mana potions and 53% for 5/10 mana potions. The chances to get specific combination of 2 effects (for example Ichor of Undeath + Goldthorn) is 25% for the 1 mana potions and 20% for the 5/10 mana potions. Thanks to the reddit user Rodrik-Harlaw for those calculations! (Source)
Now that we know all the choices, let’s talk a bit about which ones you want to pick. I’ll start with the potions mana costs first.
As you might have noticed, the difference between 1, 5 and 10 mana potions is not worth the respective mana when we’re talking about tempo. In terms of pure value, you’d always want to pick a 10 mana potion, but that’s not how you should evaluate those. 1 mana potion = insane tempo, weak value. 5 mana = good tempo, good value. 10 mana = weak tempo, insane value. It’s easy to see that your potion choice will mostly depend on the matchup you’re playing in and the tempo you need there.
When playing against faster decks, your most common choices will be 1 or 5 mana. I generally like to aim for the 5 mana one, because it gives you just enough of everything. For example – AoE damage. 1 mana one is 2 damage, which is good, but 5 mana is 4 damage. If you play turn 4 Kazakus against (for example) Pirate Warrior, it’s very likely that they will have minions with health higher than 2 on the board. It doesn’t clear cards like Frothing Berserker or Kor’kron Elite, while the 5 mana one does. I tend to pick 5 mana one when I don’t have another board clear (and I have to look for the 4 damage) or I don’t have another play next turn. If you have a 4-drop, the 1 mana potion can be stronger, because you can play both. If it’s turn 5-8 (before you can immediately play the 5 mana one), you can also pick a 1 mana potion to get the instant effect like removal or Armor gain. You pretty much never go for the 10 mana potion. It’s generally not worth it. The only reason you might go for it is when you want the extra 3 Armor, but then you spend your whole turn on playing it.
Now, in slower matchups, you generally choose between 5 and 10 mana potions. You pick the 1 mana one really situationally, for example if you need cheap spell for some synergies or you look for lethal or immediate removal/board clear when you can’t afford to wait another turn. When you’re playing the tempo game, you want to pick the 5 mana one. It’s the right mix between tempo and value. The effect is really strong for 5 mana and you can play it before late game, and if it’s late game already, you might immediately play it after dropping Kazakus. On the other hand, if you’re going for the pure value game in Control matchup, you pick the 10 mana potion. 10 mana potion is a solid win condition, especially if you can get multiple potions (more about it later).
Now, onto the effects. In fast matchups, your game plan is generally to survive. It means that you prioritize effects that either clear the board or gain you life. That’s why Felbloom and Stonescale Oil are the best effects in fast matchups. Heart of Fire and Kingsblood are second best ones. The first one is a single target removal, especially good at 1 mana, 3 damage should be enough to kill a lot of minions from Aggro deck. The second one is card draw, which might not seem that strong against Aggro decks, but it’s because you want to cycle through your deck in order to draw Taunts, Reno Jackson or other life gain. Third tier is spawning minions (either Ichor of Undeath that resurrects dead minions or Netherbloom that spawns Demon), which is okay against Aggro, but it’s not amazing. It’s pretty good when combined with AoE so you can clear the board and spawn something after that. Goldthorn (giving your minions Health) and Shadow Oil (adding Demons to your hand) are absolutely the worst ones, because they don’t really accomplish what you want to do in the Aggro matchup. Adding health is strong only if you have Taunt on the board and Shadow Oil is pretty much never strong. Maybe on the off chance to give you Lord Jaraxxus so you can heal up to 15 on turn 9, but it’s really grasping at straws. Icecap is very situational, because freezing minion(s) can buy you some time, but in the end it doesn’t kill them and you still have to do that. So it’s okay if you just want to buy one extra turn, but it’s not okay if that’s your way to deal with the board. That’s why I’d say it’s somewhere in Tier III. Mystic Wool isn’t possible to get from the 1 mana potion, but if you get the 5 mana one – don’t take it. Only in the rare situation when your opponent has a huge minion on the board – e.g. Aggro Shaman that has dropped Flamewreathed Faceless. Most of the time the effect won’t do that much.
When it comes to slow matchups, I’ll divide them again into two categories. Best effects depend on whether you’re going for the tempo or the full value game. Tempo game means either when you’re playing against a slower Midrange matchup and you aren’t going for the late game fatigue plan OR you play in a Control matchup, but you’re pursuing the faster win condition of putting the pressure and killing your opponent before the game ever gets to fatigue. I’ll start with the tempo, where picking the 5 mana potion is probably best, but the 10 mana might also be okay.
When you’re pursuing the tempo win condition, Tier 1 effects are definitely things that spawn you minions. Both Ichor of Undeath and Netherbloom are really strong, I pick them every time I can. Goldthorn (giving your minions extra Health) is also Tier 1 if you already have a decent board presence or you combine it with minion summoning (especially Ichor of Undeath). If not, it’s lower tier. Tier 2 effects are Heart of Fire (dealing single target damage) and Kingsblood (drawing cards). If you’re playing for the tempo, running out of steam might be the issue. If you’re not taking the long game, fatigue plan anyway, drawing cards is strong. Dealing single target damage is strong as either a finisher or as a way to deal with big drops they might play. Mystic Wool is a good 5 mana option, but not a good 10 mana option. You should be the one with board control, so Polymorphing one opponent’s minion is good, but Mass Polymorph sucks, as you would hurt yourself more most of the time. That’s the same reason why Felbloom is not good. If you’re the one with board control, you’re killing your own board. Icecap is okay if you’re making the final tempo push and you don’t want to bother with killing minions, but it’s bad otherwise. Shadow Oil is pretty bad, card draw is nearly strictly better – you prefer cards from your own deck than random Demons (there is a big chance that you will get something weak). Stonescale Oil – gaining Armor – is probably the worst one. If you play in a Control matchup AND you have the tempo lead, you don’t need the Armor.
Now, if you play in Control matchup, but you go for the value game, you want to pick 10 mana potions, so those are the ones we’re considering. When you’re going for the pure value game, you’re not constantly in the tempo lead and initiative might swing, that’s why some of the options get weaker and some get stronger. Best effects are still the ones that summon minions – Ichor of Undeath and Netherbloom. And just like last time, Goldthorn is great if you combine it with Ichor of Undeath, but this time it’s pretty weak if you don’t. Tier 2 depends on the exact deck you play and how many removals would you need, but I’d say that removals are Tier 2 – both single target one (Heart of Fire) and AoE ones (Felbloom, Mystic Wool*). Adding Demons to your hand (Shadow Oil) was bad last time, but in the case of value game it gets switched with Kingsblood – you don’t want to draw cards if the game is going to fatigue, but you DO want to get extra value from outside of your deck. Gaining Armor (Stonescale Oil) is not good, but it’s better than last time – in fatigue scenario, the 10 extra health might make the difference. Drawing cards (Kingsblood) and freezing minions (Icecap) are absolutely worst ones. While situationally you might still pick them, you generally don’t want to draw too many cards in value games and freezing minions is too low impact.
*Edit: 10 mana Mystic Wool gets extra value against N’Zoth decks and jumps from Tier II to Tier I if you’re facing one. Having a great Counter to the N’Zoth turn (Mass Polymorph means that you deny every Deathrattle) is like completely preventing your opponent’s win condition. Even if he ends up with a board full of 1/1’s (if you don’t get the Felbloom with it), you should still be able to clear them easily next turn and outvalue him in the end.
Here is a summary chart of which potion choice is best in which matchup:
(T) stands for Tempo and (V) for Value, just like I’ve explained above.
Kazakus Combos & Synergies
Kazakus is a very synergistic card. There are tons of other cards that you might want to combo him with. Some combos are neutral, some are class specific. Some get you more tempo, others give you more value, others let you survive. I’ll try to cover at least a part of them, because it would be really hard to talk about everything.
The most common and probably the strongest synergy card is Brann Bronzebeard. Kazakus is one of the strongest Battlecries in the game, and unlike other Highlander Battlecries its Battlecry scales with how many times you play it. So if you can play it twice, you get two potions. Brann combo is most useful in the slow matchups, where you can either be greedy and pick two 10 mana potions for a really great boost in value game, or you can go for the 5 mana ones and gets a really nice tempo boost. Some potions even synergize with each other – if you play 2x summon + health gain potion in a row, you end up with a full board of incredibly high health minions. In faster matchup, going for the 2x 1 mana potion (or 5 + 1) is also a nice way to seal the game if you get a lot of Armor.
Another potential synergy for Kazakus is the one with Youthful Brewmaster. While it’s probably to greedy to run it right now, it might have a potential use in the future. Brewmaster synergizes well with powerful Battlecries. Kazakus’ body is pretty much negligible and it’s the Battlecry that really matters. You can play Kazakus, Brewmaster him and play him again or play Brann + Kazakus and then Brewmaster him to play next turn (possibly even the same with some Emperor Thaurissan procs, although unlikely).
First strong Mage synergy is Manic Soulcaster. If you’re going for value game with Reno Mage, that’s one of the ways to ensure that you won’t run out of steam in the late game. You wait until you have all 3 cards – Brann, Kazakus and Soulcaster and just play them. It doesn’t require any Emperor procs or weird shenanigans. You get 2 potions right away and you get 2 more potions after you draw the other copies of Kazakus. It’s one of the best win conditions in Reno Mage, it’s really hard to outvalue that. Remember that for a brief amount of time (until you draw the first shuffled Kazakus), your other Highlander effects won’t work.
Another good Mage synergy is the Mage’s Highlander Legendary – Inkmaster Solia. If you play her in the deck, especially if you already drew her, you probably want to go for the 10 mana potion. Cheating that effect out on turn 7 WHILE playing a 5/5 minion is amazing. A right potion (e.g. summoning 3 minions that died + giving +6 health to everything) might just seal the game right away.
The last synergy available to Mage, while not as strong as the last two, can also be decent. This time around, going for a 1 mana potion has an obvious synergy with Archmage Antonidas. If you run him in your Reno list, that’s a serious consideration. Not only you get a high tempo of the 1 mana spell, but you also produce an extra Fireball.
Priest doesn’t really have cards that directly combo with Kazakus. However, one thing that I have to mention is that Priest player should value the health gain on minions effect higher than the other two. High health minions in Priest are way more valuable, especially if you play Raza the Chained and Justicar Trueheart in your deck. If you get a few 10+ health minions on the board, pretty much the only way to kill them is hard AoE like Brawl or Twisting Nether. Otherwise Priest will heal them over and over, very likely winning the game just like that.
Well, there is a slight synergy between a 1 mana spell and Priest of the Feast – that’s 3 extra points of healing. It’s pretty useful in Aggro matchups, but other than that not really very impactful.
Just like in Priest’s case, there aren’t any direct combos between class cards and Kazakus. However, once again, some potions choices are more important than the others. There are two choices like that, depending on exact list you run.
First one is Shadow Oil – adding random Demons to your hand. Demons are native to Warlock class, so any cards that synergize with Demons also synergize with having more Demons. But since RenoLock doesn’t run cards like Demonfire, the card I want to focus on is Krul the Unshackled. 3 more Demons in your hand increases the card’s power immensely. Considering that a lot of Demons have negative Battlecries (Doomguard, Pit Lord, Felguard etc.), summoning them on the board is way stronger. In most of the classes, Shadow Oil is a pure value option, but in case of the decks running Krul, it can also be a set-up for a great tempo play.
Other potion that synergizes well with Warlock is Stonescale Oil, which is a viable choice even in some slower matchups. Not only health is very valuable to Warlock (because of the self-damaging effects), but it can also play around getting bursted down. Thanks to the Lord Jaraxxus, RenoLock can outvalue nearly every Control deck (well, besides the new Jade Druid…). However, the main counter to Jaraxxus was always trying to rush it down, especially burn it down with spells, Charge minions and such. And so, Priest could sometimes win with Auchenai Soulpriest + Flash Heal burst, Warrior tried to pre-equip a Gorehowl and play Grommash Hellscream + activator next turn etc. However, if you would save your +10 Armor card for after you’ve played Jaraxxus, you could prevent most of those combos, basically forcing enemy to chop your health down slowly or not win at all. Adding 10 Armor to the 15 health pool can be a saving grace in many situations.
That’s all folks. I hope that you’ve learned something about (already!) one of my favorite Legendaries, who is certainly NOT a Dragon and does NOT deal in illegal potions. I’ve always loved the Reno decks and I’m really glad that they have got a huge boost right now. I enjoy playing them and playing against them, so it’s a win-win situation. You know what I mean?
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. And if you want to be up to date with my articles, you can follow me on Twitter.
Good luck on the ladder and until next time!