Today I’ll be writing about a very interesting deck – RenoLock. First created just after the League of Explorers release, it has caught attention of many pro and casual players alike. Most likely thanks to the unique play style and the most important card – Reno Jackson. Everyone loved that man’s hat, perfect moustache and “we’re gonna be rich!” catchphrase. At first the deck was played for fun, then it became competitive and more recently it has fallen out of favor again.
RenoLock is absolutely my favorite Hearthstone deck. I love everything about it. The deck building process (once you’ve picked the best cards you have to wonder which niche/tech/uncommon cards you want to choose), the game play with tons of different possibilities, all the decision making involved and the amazing feeling you get after healing for 25+ HP and winning the game that would be lost without Reno. Oh, and I love the fact that it’s so flavorful – you can build a C’Thun version, N’Zoth version, Combo version, Dragon version and probably some more too. Between different builds, I have over 1.5k games played with this archetype – it just shows how much I love playing it.
And so I want to share some of my passion for the deck with you. I’ve already covered a C’Thun version of the deck soon after Whispers of the Old Gods came out, but not only it was a while ago, but those two versions are quite different. I hope that you’re going to enjoy this one.
RenoLock is a spiritual successor of the old Handlock (everyone who played the game ~2 years ago knows it very well). The deck utilizes Warlock’s Hero Power to gain a huge card advantage over the enemy and negates it’s downside (2 damage per Tap) by running a lot of healing, including Reno Jackson himself. RenoLock is probably the most consistent Reno deck, as it can afford to run only a single copy of each card and thanks to the Hero Power, it finds whatever it needs (especially Reno) much more consistently.
Sadly, RenoLock wasn’t a great deck for quite a while. Meta from the last few months was just bad for Reno and while it was never a terrible deck, it was hard to recommend it to the people that have never tried it. But I feel like the last nerfs made it more playable than it was before. Few cards were nerfed, but no card played by RenoLock was among them (well, maybe Abusive Sergeant in combo lists, but you play it for the effect anyway, not for the stats). Even more than that – some cards that RenoLock hated were hit. Rockbiter Weapon was the biggest reason for the Shaman’s insane burst – most of the builds have dropped it recently, so no more Doomhammer/Al’Akir the Windlord + Rockbiter burst turns. Then, the Charge change is also appreciated – Combo decks were really hard to play against and OTK Worgen Warrior was very, very hard matchup. The deck is now completely gone. And last, but not least – Midrange Hunter, one of the RenoLock counters, lost some popularity due to the Call of the Wild nerf.
Those changes put RenoLock in a better spot. It’s still not an amazing deck, it’s far from Tier 1 – from my own ladder experience, I’d say that it’s around low T2/high T3 right now. But it’s also a deck that’s pretty difficult to learn and play correctly, so keep that in mind – if you prefer the easy to play decks, you should go for Zoo, Midrange Shaman or Secret Hunter instead in this meta.
I’ll start with the Mulligan. Since you run only 1 copy of each card, it’s even harder to get a perfect opening hand. It means that you much more often “hard mulligan” for stuff than you do with other decks. Throwing away whole hand is very common when playing RenoLock. Sometimes even cards that are okay are thrown away, because there are some cards that you absolutely need in a given matchup. I’ll go with the cards that you might want to keep by mana cost and say when and why you keep it or look for it. I’ll also divide them into two categories – high priority and medium priority. Cards with “high priority” are the ones that you are most likely to keep no matter what, cards with medium priority are either situational or you can still easily throw away to look for some high priority ones.
- Dark Peddler – It’s one of the most all-around early game cards. It’s okay in many matchups, as it might get an early game trade + leaves you with another card in your hand anyway. It’s solid in most of the fast matchup – e.g. against Zoo Warlock or Hunters. It kinda sucks against Shaman, though, as it trades poorly with buffed Trogg or Totem Golem.
- Doomsayer – One of the highest priority cards in fast matchups. Turn 2 Doomsayer often decides a whole game. Usually it clears whatever enemy has on the board and stops him from developing for a turn. In worst case scenario it tanks 7 damage or a removal – which is also fine for 2 mana. You can throw it away in slower matchups, but I’ll be honest that it’s also fine in those. E.g. Warrior drops a turn 3 Acolyte of Pain. You can answer it with Doomsayer to deny the draw or force him to use a hard removal like Execute – either situation is good for you.
- Imp Gang Boss – It’s also one of the best minions to have in the early game. While I sometimes drop it when I’m fishing for Doomsayer or Reno Jackson, it’s generally a keep in most matchups, especially high tempo ones. Earthen Ring Farseer is way inferior of a 3-drop for a few reasons (heal isn’t that useful on turn 3, it has only 3 health, it doesn’t spawn anything on hit) and I don’t keep him that often (way too easy to remove 3 health minions in this meta).
- Twilight Drake – Most likely your best 4-drop. In the worst case scenario it’s a 4/5 or 4/6, but only against the matchups where you play for the early game tempo – and in those matchups it’s good enough. But dropping a 4/8 or 4/9 is very strong in any slower matchup. It’s tricky to kill it without hard removal, might bait an early Hex or Sap, which is fine with you and if it survives – it should get a few value trades before it dies. It’s auto keep in any Midrange or Control matchup. Throw it away only when you play against a very fast deck where turn 4 is already late in the game.
- Reno Jackson – Auto keep in every matchup. After all, it’s THE reason you play Reno deck. It’s often great turn 6 play, as it gives you a decent body on the board and heals you back to full. In any faster matchup, it’s a saving grace. But even in the slower ones you might fall behind on the tempo, you might draw poorly and get rushed down. I had games where I was getting rushed down by Control Priest and I’m not kidding you. It’s good to always have him in the hand and know that you can count on him – this also means you can play more recklessly, like set up a big AoE without playing for the on-board tempo, you can tap more than you would otherwise etc. Just keep him, it’s really worth it.
- Mortal Coil – It’s a keep in fast matchups where opponent runs early game 1 health minions. So for example, you keep it against Warlock (because you assume it’s Zoo) and Hunter. You also keep it against Warrior if you’re 100% sure that it’s Aggro (e.g. you know that player, you have played against him before etc.). But you don’t keep it against Shaman, because it’s useless against 3/4 health minions. You might keep it alongside Possessed Villager vs decks that run 2 health minions.
- Possessed Villager – Rules are similar to Mortal Coil, but a little less strict. For example – if the rest of your hand is fine, you might keep it against Shaman – it might tank two Spirit Claws hits, you can use it with Power Overwhelming to kill something or throw it into a 4 health minion before Hellfire.
- Acidic Swamp Ooze – Against weapon classes, both slow and fast. In fast matchups destroying an early weapon (Spirit Claws), Fiery War Axe, Eaglehorn Bow), which they often pre-equip without attacking, is amazing. And if it turns to be a Control deck – e.g. Control Warrior, Control Paladin, you still will want to have it eventually against Gorehowl or Tirion Fordring for example + you can afford to hold it in your hand for a long time.
- Demonwrath – 2 AoE damage for 3 mana is surprisingly weak in this meta, but it’s still okay to keep it in some matchups. I like it against the decks that can play a few early minions that are 1-2 health. I keep it against Tempo Mage (it works exceptionally well against their 2-drops), Hunter (it’s worse since they’re playing Kindly Grandmother, but it’s still often a good mid game play) and Zoo. Even though it doesn’t work on Demons, which is a huge downside, it’s still good at stalling by killing Dire Wolf Alpha or Knife Juggler.
- Shadow Bolt – Enemy might have some 4 health target you need to kill pretty early in the game? If yes, then keep it. It can save your life. It’s a keep against Shaman – Totem Golem, against Warrior – Frothing Berserker, against Mage – Flamewaker, against Warlock – Imp Gang Boss. It’s mostly a meta call whether you keep it against a certain deck or not – for example you can drop it against Warrior if you don’t face any Midrange Warriors, because it’s not that good against Control in the early game.
- Hellfire – Similarly to Demonwrath, but with higher priority. You keep it against matchup where having a turn 4 AoE is sometimes necessary. So against Shaman, against Warlock, against Mage (I can’t stress out how important it is to clear the early game Tempo Mage’s FAST board if you don’t want to get burned by turn 6-7). It’s often a dead card on turn 4, because they either don’t have a board or have boards you can’t clear, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
In this section I’ll try to share my knowledge about the deck. I’ll give you some basic and more advanced tips on how to play it – what should you do in certain situations, how to behave against some decks archetype etc. If you want to read more about specific matchups, you’ll have to wait a bit – I’ll be releasing a few MUAs (Matchup Analysis) vs the most popular ladder decks after this article is out.
RenoLock is not a Control deck, but it’s also not your classic Midrange deck. It has a very unique play style that no other popular deck has. The deck can heavily adjust the play style depending on the draws and the matchup. The deck is a mix of proactive and reactive cards and it’s important to know when you have to adapt a given play style. For example – against Midrange Shaman, you want to play the reactive game. Focus on removing instead of developing, prioritize trading over face damage, sometimes you can pass a turn without doing anything to set up for a Shadowflame or Twisting Nether. But against Control Warrior, you want to play proactively. Yes, you will ultimately win the matchup with Lord Jaraxxus, but first you need to set up for that. You want to chunk down their Armor all the time so it won’t run out of control and won’t give them too much time against Jaraxxus. You want to bait the single target removals and possibly even Brawl before dropping Jaraxxus (and possibly both Brawls before dropping N’Zoth). To accomplish that, you need to drop stuff. If you try to play a passive game against Warrior, they’ll have an advantage, because their Hero Power is much better at this kind of game. Knowing when to adapt each play style mostly comes down to the experience, but remember that you can be flexible. You aren’t forced into one play style like most decks are, so use that to your advantage.
The deck’s main theme – N’Zoth, the Corruptor. It’s important to know how and when to use this card. First of all – a lot of the time you don’t even need that to win, but it helps. What is your aim with N’Zoth? I’d say that you have no aim. If the situation requires that, so you play in a faster matchup and you need some immediate board presence, playing N’Zoth just to get back 1 or 2 minions is okay. Especially if there is a Cairne Bloodhoof or Sylvanas Windrunner among them. Heck, I sometimes play it just to get back a 1/1. After all, N’Zoth is also a 5/7 body and you just sometimes need some immediate presence. And if you don’t have any other strong minion to play, you drop N’Zoth. In those matchups you don’t need value anyway, you just need to survive. Even if the game comes down to the last cards, those decks can’t handle Jaraxxus. But, in the matchups where you need value, you try to wait with N’Zoth until the late, late game. You absolutely want to resurrect both Cairne and Sylvanas, with two other minions being a nice addition. But you also want to set up for the N’Zoth. You prefer when enemy is out of AoE clears, like Equality or Brawl, because then N’Zoth is nearly an auto-win. What if enemy decides to keep those AoEs specifically for N’Zoth? You can still drop him, but in that case you prioritize minions that spawn stuff on death. Even after the clear, you still end up with a 4/5, 2/2 and 1/1 on the board and then you play Jaraxxus – with no more AoE, enemy is helpless against flood of 6/6’s. If enemy plays a deck with Elise Starseeker, you prefer to wait with N’Zoth as a counter to Golden Monkey. Enemy drops Monkey – you drop N’Zoth. And now you pretty much win the game. You have immediate huge board presence and Sylvanas to steal whatever he plays.
But, some decks can deny your N’Zoth value. Mostly Shaman and Control Mage – they can Hex or Polymorph your Deathrattle minions. If you play against one of those decks, then you can guarantee your Cairne/Sylvanas resurrect by immediately killing those yourself. For example, you can play Sylvanas Windrunner with Power Overwhelming to immediately steal something and Cairne Bloodhoof + Shadowflame for 4 damage AoE and 4/5 on the board. Now both big minions have died while still getting value, and you will get them back with N’Zoth.
Doomsayer is a very important card in this deck. So important that I even thought about running two instead of 1, but potential anti-synergy with Reno is too high. It’s an amazing turn 2 play against most of the decks – you drop it against opponent’s 1-drop or 2-drop and he has two options. Let it die and pass the turn OR use precious burn/removals to kill it, while still probably not developing anything else. In the first case, you get 1 for 1 (sometimes even 2 for 1 if you’re lucky), lose some health, but make enemy pass his turn completely. In the second case, you gain 7 health or bait something like Hex which would be way better later in the game. No matter what, turn 2 Doomsayer is great (the only solid way to counter it is Crazed Alchemist and pretty much no one runs that). But that’s not the only use of this card. It’s great at stalling later in the game. Dropping it on the empty board might make enemy pass his turn completely. Twisting Nether + Doomsayer is amazing combo, because you clear the whole board, but you don’t have any more mana to develop. So you’d pass the initiative back to your opponent. But with Doomsayer, if it procs and stalls the turn, you start with 10 mana to develop and now you’re ahead on the board. Doomsayer is solid at setting up the Lord Jaraxxus – you prefer to play him when enemy has no minions in play, so he doesn’t immediately deal damage to your precious life total. Heck, you can even just drop him to heal for 7+ if enemy can kill it on the board. I often do that when I need to slow the enemy down a bit. I know that it won’t go off, because enemy can’t afford to lose whole board. But he ends up hitting Doomsayer instead of hitting face, which might buy me some time. Doomsayer is useful in nearly every matchup at nearly every stage of the game, that’s why I like the card so much.
In slower matchups, try to hit Lord Jaraxxus with Emperor Thaurissan proc or save the Coin. This allows you to play Jaraxxus and still use Hero Power on the same turn. Jaraxxus is a huge tempo loss, but with a 6/6 on the board immediately, you can negate some of that disadvantage. In faster matchups just drop Thaurissan whenever you can to increase your tempo for the next few turns. But any time you can afford to wait, try to get Jaraxxus into your hand before dropping Thaurissan.
If you know that you play in the matchup that might require a lot of healing, e.g. Freeze Mage or some Hunter, try to save your Brann Bronzebeard for the late game. If you can immediately combo him with Earthen Ring Farseer/Refreshment Vendor/Cult Apothecary, it can come very handy. If you manage to drop all 3 – Brann, Farseer and Vendor – on a single turn, that’s 14 points of healing. And Brann + Cult Apothecary is basically a second Reno against board floods (Zoo Warlock, Hunter’s Unleash the Hounds or Call of the Wild) – it’s quite easy to heal for 16 or 20. Those combos can save your life and Brann by itself won’t really help you win those matchups that often, so if you can, save it. In slower matchups, you also prefer to save it to get immediate value. In slow matchups, the best Brann combos are Twilight Drake, Dark Peddler and Defender of Argus – all of them can give you some extra value or force the enemy to waste extra resources. Oh, and if you manage to stick the Brann to the board (enemy might not prioritize him that highly in the late game), remember that N’Zoth is also a Battlecry. It’s not that useful when all of your minions have already died, but let’s say if only Cairne and Infested Tauren are dead, you can still get them back twice and just laugh at the enemy trying to remove them.
Save Siphon Soul if that’s possible. It’s your only hard removal that you can always count on (well, Twisting Nether is also one, but it removes your whole board too). If you can kill something on the board without wasting too much resources, or if you can afford to ignore something and AoE it down turn or two later, even go for a 50/50 with Ragnaros the Firelord, you generally want to do that. I’ve learned my lesson by Siphoning an Arcane Giant against Druid, because I didn’t want to sacrifice my whole board. He just casually dropped Malygos next turn and I had no way to kill it. Guess what happened next.
Prioritize board clears and Taunts above healing. The reason is that once you clear the board, you completely stop the damage from those minions. And if you just heal, enemy can still hit you with the minions and deal damage, so the healing will be negated. Sometimes you even want to play risky and clear the board instead of healing. Let’s say you’re at 5 health against 20 damage on the board. You drop Reno and you don’t really accomplish that much. Enemy gets you down low again. But if you Twisting Nether that board and THEN play Reno next turn, it’s very likely that enemy won’t fill it against so fast. Yes, it’s risky, because 5 damage is way easier to deal from the hand than 10, but taking risks like that is important part of playing RenoLock. It’s similar with Taunts. If you’re pretty low and face lethal on the board, you generally prefer to play Defender of Argus or Sunfury Protector over healing (if you have something to Taunt up, of course). The reason is that enemy will very likely be forced to trade his minions to kill your Taunts. This means that you reduce the on board damage and make your healing cards more useful. Sure, it all depends on the situation and the deck you’re playing against, but if you think that you can afford to take that risk, try to save your healing for after you reduce the damage on the board.
Every deck has some extra cards you might want to fit into, but you don’t have enough space, they don’t work well against the meta you face etc. But things might change, especially with RenoLock. When you have 30 slots, so you often afford to play cards that you wouldn’t normally do. So here is a quick list of the cards that you might want to test in the deck. You can play them instead of some Legendary you don’t have, you can test them if you think they will work well against the decks you face etc.
- Leeroy Jenkins + Faceless Manipulator. Since you run Power Overwhelming already, if you can fit two cards somewhere, the combo might be a good thing to play. It also allows you to run Alexstrasza instead of Jaraxxus and still have a win condition in slower matchups (plus Alex is superior in faster matchups). I have mixed feelings about this, because it might be hard to fit another win condition into the deck. And it’s not 100% necessary in the current meta. I feel like Leeroy combo is actually great against other combo decks. You know, combo them before they combo you. So it works very well against Anyfin Paladin or Malygos Druid, but those aren’t most popular right now. The combo isn’t that good against Shaman (you basically don’t need it and end up using the combo pieces individually without that great of an effect) and it’s also way inferior to Jaraxxus against Control Warrior, where both decks are very popular right now. So I’d say that it might work in some metas, but I don’t particularly like it right now.
- Barnes – I’ve tested this guy, but decided to not include him. Barnes is amazing in let’s say Hunter, where you have A LOT of great targets to summon. In this deck, however, there aren’t as many. Only Infested Tauren, Cairne Bloodhoof, Emperor Thaurissan, Sylvanas Windrunner and Ragnaros the Firelord are great. That’s 5 out of 22 minions (well, 21 if you’d sub Barnes for another minion) – I don’t feel like it’s enough. Sure, getting a Possessed Villager and Imp Gang Boss is also okay, getting Brann Bronzebeard might be good in the late game and pulling Doomsayer depends on the situation a lot – it can be negative a lot of times. But even if you count them all, that’s 8 good and 1 mixed outcomes out of 21. 8/21 = 38% chance to pull of something with positive effect. If you find yourself lucky, it’s still okay. And yes, sometimes getting a lucky 1 out of 21 Cairne can win you the game on the spot. But it happened way to rarely and most of the time it pulled a blank 1/1.
- Corrupted Healbot – I like him for a few reasons, but I couldn’t find myself replacing something with it. First of all – it’s a Deathrattle for N’Zoth. Second – it’s a 6/6 for 5, so quite nice stats for trading in the mid game. And third – this deck lacks proactive 5-drops. T5 is often a 4-drop or Tap + 3-drop or something like that. You can’t always count on having a good Stampeding Kodo or Cult Apothecary on t5. But this you can pretty much always drop proactively without worrying about anything. But there are few problems with the card – healing opponent is not always great. Corrupted Healbot is often useless on the N’Zoth turn, because opponent usually needs AoE against a full N’Zoth or else he loses, and this guy has no AoE resistance. And in the end it’s just a bunch of stats with no positive effect or Battlecry – minions like that are okay in some matchups, but quite useless in the others.
- Mountain Giant – This one is really simple – you don’t want it in high tempo matchups, but it’s amazing in slower matchups. 3 or 4 mana 8/8 is great, can get a lot of value or bait a removal. So if you feel that the meta you face is slow enough, you can play it. If not – don’t. I don’t like it in Shaman matchup and Shamans are about 40% of my ladder recently.
- Big Game Hunter – Even after the nerf, it’s still an okay tech card, just not an auto-include any more. Once again – it’s a meta call. I play BGH or Stampeding Kodo depending on which one I find more useful. I feel like Kodo is better right now, but it might change – e.g. BGH is way better against Druid (Arcane Giants) or against Shamans running Flamewreathed Faceless. It’s still an okay card and you can play it if you face a lot of good targets.
- Youthful Brewmaster – It’s an interesting tech that Fr0zen runs in his N’Zoth RenoLock. The deck has quite a lot of the meaningful battlecries that you might want to get back into your hand. For example – on turn 8 you can play Reno Jackson and bounce him back. Against Paladin, you can play Acidic Swamp Ooze on Truesilver Champion and bounce it back to still have it against Ashbringer. If your N’Zoth, the Corruptor somehow survives a turn, you can bounce it back and replay the turn after – amazing value. I haven’t tested it personally yet, because I’ve just seen it in the Americas Last Call decks, but it seems like a good card to play in this deck. I’ll definitely test it soon!
That’s all folks. I hope that you’ve liked it and learned something. It’s still not everything, because I’ll be releasing a few MUAs (Matchups Analysis) to address the most popular matchups soon. I’ll most likely cover the Midrange Shaman first, as it’s by far the most common deck on the ladder and quite problematic matchup for RenoLock. If you have any questions about the deck or you’d like me to write something else, I’ll take requests in the comments! If you want to be up to date with my articles, you can follow me on the Twitter.
Good luck on the ladder and until next time!