Hi, I am Wouter (Nickname WaQu (used to be SlayerXL)) a dutch Hearthstone player. I play Hearthstone since the curse of Naxxramas, and by the time the new expansion league of explorers hit, my card pool was finally more or less complete. I am an infinite arena player and bought the last expansion. This allowed me, for the first time, to do some deck building immediately after the latest expansion was released. After the first week of the League of Explorers I think I created a really solid ladder deck. The performance of the deck was so strong that I would like to share it with the HS community in my first article on HSP. If people like the article I am planning to write more articles including infinite arena guides by class.
The term Highlander originates from magic the gathering. There it is a casual constructed variant which allows only one copy of each card in the deck, with the exception of basic land cards. The name Highlander is a reference to the Highlander movie, whose tag line was there can be only one.
This Highlander deck is a combination of hand, demon and combo Lock with the inclusion of reno-jackson. With the combination of all these archetypes we can play many different cards, without hurting the average card strength, and, thereby reliably triggering Reno Jackson. When playing the deck it felt favored against both control and aggro. Since it runs many threats, heal and Taunts. The highest rank I reached with the deck is rank 12, but I’m convinced it can do even better.
There were quite some other articles discussing the strength of reno-jackson (among others: There Can Be Only One – Reno Jackson Analysis). Reno, however, has one big drawback. In order to reliably trigger its effect you need to play only one copy of each card in your deck. Therefore, I predict that the card will grow stronger over time. With more cards released the number of playable constructed cards will increase, and, therefore less sub-optimal cards have to be used to synergy with reno-jackson. I tested Reno Jackson first in an Echo Mage and Freeze Mage, where I tried to limit the cards of which I played two copies. I think among others Just Saiyan used Reno in a freeze mage, and there was a rank one Chinese Reno lock deck that plays two molten-giants. Still, for me it turned out to be to frustrating to really need the heal-effect and then have to wait to draw the second copy of a card from your deck. So I decided that in order to play a Reno deck it would be best to only play one copy of each card. I decided that Warlock was a good class to choose for two reasons. First, it has a strong hero power. Being able to draw cards is very important for the consistency of your deck, especially if you only play one copy of each card. Second, there are many viable archetypes of the warlock class, and thus many cards to choose from that already proved themselves to be valuable inclusions in constructed decks. Finally, I noticed that it can also be an advantage to play many one-of cards. If you life-tap regularly, keeping your hand size large, having one copy of each card will give you more options, and, therefore you will have an optimal solution for most situations more often than not.
In this part I will take you through the thought process of creating the deck. This will make it easier if you decide to include or exclude some cards to tweak the deck. I only played with this deck a week, so there is probably room for some improvement.
I decided to start with the traditional Hand Lock and cut all the two-of copies. I replaced most cards with cards from the Demon Lock deck. For example I cut one twilight-drake for one voidcaller. One mountain-giant and one molten-giant and included Malganis. The second antique-healbot is replaced by Reno himself, and, as an extra four drop, heal and anti-aggro card, there is a refreshment-vendor in the deck. I included mortal-coil and zombie-chow as additional anti-aggro cards. This also makes up for playing less Taunt givers in the deck, there is only one sunfury-protector and one Defender of Argus in the deck.
When first playing the deck I noticed that only having one hellfire and one shadowflame was too unreliable to always get an board clear against aggro-decks, so I included a demonwrath. The only drawback of the Demonwrath is that it sometimes does nothing in the mirror. However, against Paladins this card is the MVP of the deck. It allows you to clear their board on turn three and then follow-up with one of your strong turn four plays (for example twilight-drake, or Voidcaller).
After this process I had I few slots unfilled. I decided not to include any 2 drops since the plan is two Life Tap on turn two. I already included a power-overwhelming in the deck to help with trades, or to buff a minion before using shadowflame. I also included a doomguard to help finish games and to have an extra demon to get from the voidcaller. The problem was that my burst potential was sometimes compromised by the fact that the doomguard discards two cards, so it is not always possible, and certainly a gamble, to combo it with power-overwhelming from an empty board. Therefore, I decided, inspired by the Combo Lock, to include leeroy-jenkins. This makes it possible to do 15 damage from hand in one turn (power-overwhelming (4) + doomguard (5) + leeroy-jenkins (6) = 15 damage) if at least one of the cards is hit by an Emperor-thaurissan discount. Leeroy also helps you to enable a shadowflame, instantly getting rid of the 1/1 minions it summons for your opponent.
In the following section I will discuss each card separately and the different synergies in the deck. This deck has many different combo’s which drawn at the right moment can win you games, however, your success does not depend on hitting these combo’s, because the overall card quality is high, and with the combination of Life Tap and an almost infinite amount of heal you will outlast most opponents.
The deck card by card
I have to say that reno-jackson does not make this section any shorter with 30 different cards to discuss. So let’s get right to it.
zombie-chow is a strong one drop and great anti-aggro card, the five health for the opponent does not really matter, since board control is more important, and with our Reno heal we out heal most opponents.
mortal-coil lets you do that one extra damage to finish of a minion while at the same time cycle through your deck.
power-overwhelming helps your smaller minions to trade up, buff a minion before using shadowflame, burst an opponent down with leeroy-jenkins, or steel a minion with sylvanas-windrunner if your opponent has only one large threat on board.
sunfury-protector, just as in Handlock and Demonlock, is a minion that can be used to Taunt up your large minions to protect your health total.
The darkbomb is nice for some extra reach in the late game or against a knife-juggler or a darnassus-aspirant on turn 2.
ironbeak-owl is an auto include in this meta, there is always something to silence. Try to save it for sylvanas-windrunner or a tirion-fordring against paladin, if possible. You can also use it to silence a Taunt minion to get lethal.
imp-gang-boss is a very strong three drop that helps you to fight for the board in the early game. It is also an additional minion to get from voidcaller if you have no other demons in hand.
demonwrath is a great card. It gives you some board clear potential in the early game for only three mana. It can deal with a shade-of-naxxramas or deal with a Paladin board in the early game. It does hardly affect your side of the board, since most of your own minions are demons or have a very high health total, and are therefore not affected by the demons wrath.
mind-control-tech will most of the time steal an underwhelming minion. This is a potential candidate to swap. However the deck is built to be able to play a three drop, and it can give you back some tempo after tapping turn 2. Additionally. It can be game deciding in some games, but just don’t expect too much from this card. I always end up with a 1/1 instead of the potential tirion-fordring steal, baby rage never lucky.
big-game-hunter is already a one of in almost every midrange and control deck and this deck is no exception. This card will most often be used to deal with Dr-Boom.
hellfire deals three damage to all minions and both hero’s. We don’t mind the face damage to our hero, since this enables a cheap molten-giant, and we have loads of heal in the deck.
shadowflame is a stable board clear of both Hand and Demon Lock. Shadowflame can even clear a board full off eight eights if used on a giant or in combination with power-overwhelming.
The twilight-drake will have one extra health for each card you hold in your hand. Just as in Hand Lock you will have a lot of cards in hand in most games, which makes it possible to play the drake with a high health total.
refreshment-vendor is a really nice card against aggro decks. Not only does it give you a small heal it provides you with a better trading body than the antique-healbot.
Since you run only one voidcaller you win fewer games by getting a free Malganas or lord-jaraxxus from your voidcaller. Still, I would advise to keep Voidcaller in your opening hand, since the deck runs enough demons to almost always find one by turn four. Especially with a little help from the Life Tap hero power.
defender-of-Argus, Just as in hand and demon lock you can use Argus to Taunt up your bigger minions. Also reno-jackson is a good defender target. It is also nice to use it after an implosion to pick up some better trades, or to make the board more resistant against a warrior’s whirlwind or second charge from the deaths-bite.
imp-losion is an extra way to finish off a minion from hand. It is nice to have some extra removal, especially if it gives you some board presence in the process. imp-losion has nice synergy with Malganis and demonwrath. I am not a large fan of the card due to the random nature. Sometimes it can be really frustrating to get only two imps.
sludge-belcher provides you with an extra strong Taunt. To stop the aggro or soak two hits from large minions.
The doomguard is an extra minion to get from the voidcaller. It can help you finish games and against aggro you can always slam it on turn 5 in blind panic. I seldom use this option, because if it is possible to survive another turn you can play Reno and you don’t want to risk discarding it when he is already in your hand.
loatheb is a 5 drop with a strong effect which can protect you board from spells for a turn. A strong play is to drop loatheb on a swing turn together with a molten-giant. Additionally, it can protect you from lethal for one turn against spell heavy decks such as Tempo/ Freeze Mage, or Oil Rogue. This can give you another chance of drawing a card that can heal you (preferably Reno).
sylvanas-windrunner is great card for board control and to combo with power-overwhelming to steal a large minion from your opponent. You can also combo this card with shadowflame to wipe the opponent’s board and steal their one remaining threat.
antique-healbot gives the deck another heal option because you cannot always draw reno-jackson and you need the additional heal in this deck.
emperor-thaurissan is very strong in this deck. Most of the time you have a large hand size, thus the mana discount is considerable. If Emperor hits one of you direct damage cards (power-overwhelming, doomguard, leeroy-jenkins) you increase the amount of damage you can do in one turn. It is also nice to discount lord-jaraxxus or Malganis. This allows you to get an extra 6/6 on the turn you play lord-jaraxxus, or to squeeze in a damageless Life Tap on the turn you play Malganis.
leeroy-jenkins was my last addition to the deck. I think that the surprise burn and flexibility with shadowflame won me many games. Maybe if the deck becomes more common people will play around the burn damage. This might lead to less surprise victories, however, as the Druid class shows, a fear of a combo can force opponents to make sub-optimal plays even if the combo is not in hand. So I think that the threat of the combo might even be stronger than the actual combo.
reno-jackson is the card that started it all. The heal effect is incredible and it has reasonable body, therefore playing Reno Jackson is less of a tempo loss than playing Antique Healbot. reno-jackson is a hard counter against face hunters. Many of them will simply concede once they see the card.
Malganis is another great way to survive against aggressive decks, and it can also come into play from a voidcaller. Another nice effect is that Mal’ganis can buff your other demons that are already on the field, which is nice since this deck plays quite a few demons.
lord-jaraxxus is essential in the control match ups. Since this deck does not apply a lot of pressure you need Lord Jaraxxus to outlast other control decks. Make sure not to get him from your voidcaller in these match ups. Against aggro it is great to get Jaraxxus from a Voidcaller and then give it Taunt with a sunfury-protector or defender-of-argus.
The mountain-giant can most of the time be played for three or four mana, because you will have a considerable hand size most of the time. Keep this card in your opening hand in control match ups, however mulligan it away against aggro.
Getting out a free molten-giant and healing up to 30 HP is probably one of the best moves of this deck. If you thinking about including two copies of one card in the deck this is probably the best candidate. An advantage of playing one molten-giant is that in general you have to take less risk with your health total. The deck also has other win conditions besides a swing turn with a molten-giant. In many games I found myself playing lord-jaraxxus without trying to get the Molten out first. This hurts you less if there is only one molten-giant in the deck. Still, playing a giant for free never hurts.
Other cards to consider
nerubian-egg, would be a nice turn two play and has synergy with Power-Overwhelming, Hellfire, demonwrath, and Defender-of-argus.
dark-peddler is also a two drop which can give you some card advantage. The first two cards did not make the cut because I decided to make the deck in such a way that you Life Tap on turn two. Also Dark Peddler does not trade that favorable with most other two drops.
I have seen siphon-soul in many other Warlock lists and it can be very strong in the longer control match ups. I think it is still too expensive and it is better to just try to keep board presence and trade into opponents threats as much as possible.
Lately, a Reno Lock with Feugen and stalagg became quite popular. I only played a few games with it and it feels strong. Sot these are absolutely cards to consider in a Reno Lock. Still I like games with this deck a bit more since they are less grindy. If you include Feugen and Stalagg you probably also need to include siphon-soul or twisting-nether.
The nice part of this deck is that it has no less than three win conditions. Therefore it never matters if you sacrifice a win condition. First, you can outlast your opponent by playing large threats every turn, healing with reno-jackson, and playing lord-jaraxxus for infinite 6/6s. Second, you can win by a Molten-giant swing turn, preferably played with loatheb. Finally, you can win with a 15 damage charge burst no one expects from the deck based on the other cards it plays (that is if this deck does not become popular).
I hope you enjoyed the article and you like the deck. Let me know what you think in the comment section.