Highlander decks are not something exclusive to Hearthstone. Ever since Reno Jackson came out in 2015, it branched out this unique deckbuilding style that allows you to benefit from having 1 copy of each card in your deck. The ‘Canadian Highlander’ style decks were first introduced in Magic: The Gathering where you play only singletons aside from the basic lands. Reno Jackson was the only card in Hearthstone that supported it but with Mean Streets of Gadgetzan coming out soon, we have more cards headed our way that will most likely push Mage, Warlock and Priest into making highlander decks even after Reno Jackson is long gone.
Today we will take a look at some of the best Reno Jackson decks that are available to us in Standard that are at least Legend viable if not high legend. These lists have been used by streamers and hardcore professionals alike for their climb to legend within the past 45 days. One thing that stands our particularly well is the fact that the only classes that are able to play highlander decks consistently are the ones that have ways to draw very consistently or have enough life gain tools or stall mechanics to draw into Reno Jackson if they need to. While Mage has its freeze effects, AoEs and secrets to draw out the game, Warlock relies on its hero power to quickly draw through and uses efficient removals and minions to keep the pressure going. Warrior is a third archetype that works quite well with the highlander style play, though leading to inconsistency issues sometimes if you do not get your AoEs in time against aggressive decks.
A lot of you might feel why would you want to make your deck less consistent just to get a massive amount of heal. Playing such decks means you get to balance your deck between mid range and control styles to ensure you can play attrition style games without being too slow. You are also able to explore deckbuilding options instead of just jamming 2 copies of every good card a particular class might want to run.
Reno Warlock (VLPS)
One of the most common ‘Reno’ archetypes that you will find on ladder. Reno Warlock or Renolock was one of the most popular decks in the last few months of the pre-Standard era and it is definitely a very fun deck to play. One of the biggest advantages of having the Warlock hero power at your disposal is that you will be able to draw into your key cards and Reno Jackson in time. This particular list is very streamlined and one of the notable cards missing is Lord Jaraxxus, which is often a staple in such decks. Instead this is a deathrattle heavy build that focuses on getting maximum value out of nzoth-the-corruptor. And you also have dragons packed in for getting the mid-game board presence that you need.
This deck stands out in particular because it brings together 3 different Renolock decks in form of Dragon Renolock, N’zoth Renolock and also Combo Renolock. You have access to plenty of early game and removal tools that allow you to deal with your opponent’s threats while also having lategame backup tools and combo potential. The deck works really well in the meta right now and it seems to be one of the few Reno decks in Standard that are quite proactive compared to other lists which focus on one win condition. VLPS puts his name up yet again as a master deckbuilder who comes up with great refined lists all the time.
The deck plays out like any other mid range deck that focuses on generating early presence while also having multiple win conditions ready to beat any type of deck at all. While the combo finisher might be good against a lot of decks, against slow control decks that can stay out of range you can rely on bringing back your deathrattles to life using N’zoth for some great value. The entire deck is designed to out-value your opponent and it is very fun to play against both aggro and control decks. Another thing
- Acidic Swamp Ooze (versus weapon classes)
- Imp Gang Boss
- Demonwrath / Hellfire (versus aggro/board heavy decks)
- Twilight Drake / Twilight Guardian
When facing extremely aggressive decks, keeping Reno Jackson is also an option because you will be able to consistently reset your health pool on turn 6.
So why should you play Reno Warlock? The simple answer to that would be the various options that you have access to as a player when using Warlock as the class for a highlander deck. You will not only be able to build this kind of Dragon or Deathrattle themed deck but also have pure control style builds or have cthun as a win condition. If you are someone who loves combo decks you can choose to go for Combolock builds that allow burst down your opponent in one turn by assembling your combo pieces and then discounting them for a two turn kill setup. Renolock has the most available deckbuilding options and you can create a mix of archetypes like this deck or focus on just one depending on your deckbuilding needs.
Reno Warrior (Zalae)
One of the less used classes for Reno decks is Warrior. Gaara recently made a guide for Reno Warrior, which he used to climb to high legend ranks last month. This deck by Zalaein particular is designed for beating aggro and tempo decks and it has plenty of value to beat non-Warrior control decks, however, it does not perform very well against something like Control Warrior due to a lot of cards being directed towards fast decks and they do not offer any value against slower decks most of the time. You have lots of early game removals and even if you do not manage to draw into Reno Jackson you will be able to sustain your health pool with your hero power.
Since Warrior is a class that has the advantage of being able to go over 30 HP, playing minimal card draw is not going to be an issue at all as long as you get your removals in time. It has some great cheap removals in the game while cards like Justicar Trueheart let you stack up your health pool fast enough to avoid dying to aggressive decks. Soggoth the Slitherer is one of the additions I recommend you to make in the deck. He is one of those tools that help you shut down Mid Range Shaman. There are very few decks in the game that can actually deal with Soggoth due to the nature of the card. With minion based silence effects are not seen in the meta right now, he delivers on value quite well. Big Game Hunter, a card that was so common in the past can also fit into the deck with Ragnaros the Firelord being one of the most commonly played endgame legendaries in the game right now. The Curator package is very efficient overall and works out great on a slightly lower budget than standard Control lists.
If you happen to end up extinguishing your resources and go into topdeck mode, yogg-saron-hopes-end is one of the best cards to help you make a comeback and his role in the deck is unparalleled in the deck despite the nerf in the recent past. For those who do not believe in the Old God, you can always try out Deathwing instead. You have plenty of lategame threats and there is a limit to how much hard removal decks you want to target have. With enough lifegain tools and removals, this is definitely a deck you should try out if you want to play Reno decks.
- Fiery War Axe
- Ravaging Ghoul
- Blood to Ichor
- Brawl (against board heavy decks)
Dragon Reno Mage (Stubborn Donkey)
If you love Dragon decks then you need to try out this deck. This is a very value oriented list that seeks to control the board using your dragon cards and removals. While other highlander decks have lifegain tools you rely on your Ice Block and limited healing to keep yourself protected. With sufficient removal and spells to keep your opponents at bay, you have enough time to draw into Reno Jackson and stabilize versus aggressive decks. Alexstrasza is a key card in the deck for comeback as well as offensive plays and it is one of the most proactive Reno decks I have tinkered with.
This deck not only managed to hit top 100 legend, the list was also recently used to hit 12 wins in the Heroic Tavern Brawl that concluded last week. Dragon decks seem to be making a comeback in the meta after a short spurt of glory Dragon Priest had in early TGT days and some Dragon Warrior action earlier this year in the meta. The deck is particularly good against Shamans and it performs admirably against them for sure. You will have no trouble dispatching off aggressive decks with the amount of removals you have at your disposal.
If you love Mage, then you should definitely try out the deck. With Inkmaster Solia and some great tools coming to the Kabal group in Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, you can expect Reno Mage to get better. The deck is on the brink of viability and has only a few chinks in its armor, with enough tools to balance out the early game and control tools; you can expect the deck to get a whole lot better.
- Arcane Blast
- Babbling Book
- Loot Hoarder
Reno Shadow Priest (Brian Kibler) – Wild
A deck that Brian Kibler, the Dragonmaster of card games himself popularized was recently used for a full climb to legend by Trebzilla in its Standard version. With Reno Priest getting some serious tools in the coming expansion, you can expect the deck to actually become a mid tier to high tier deck if Priest is good enough again. The fun factor in this deck is the highest in any of the four decks in this write-up and Shadowform is one of the most interesting cards in the Classic set that does not see any play at all competitively due to the lack of support the archetype has. I’d love the card to get some love through other support cards for a Shadow Priest deck from Blizzard. Both Mind Spike and Mind Shatter are great hero powers but they require mana investments and also involves you to give up your healing hero power, that has synergy with a lot of cards Priest has. The list is greedy and if you happen to love slow, drawn out games in Wild then you will love the deck for sure.
While the above list is for those who want to experience the Wild side of Hearthstone, here is a Standard variation of the deck by Trebzilla, who used the deck to hit legend this month and it has the right mix of cards to make it work in the current meta. One thing that makes the Reno Shadow Priest lists really unique is that you actually run two copies of Shadowform. No other highlander deck in the current meta runs two copies of a card just to make the deck absolutely consistent. However, the value of Mind Spike and Mind Shatter is too good to pass up on. Having two copies of the card not only allows you to remove minions or keep chipping at your opponent’s health, you will also be able to get into “Shadow Priest mode” more consistently.
It is the deck I played the least so far with only 43 games down so far but I have been climbing at a steady rate. While my winrates have not been the most impressive, I need to play more of this deck to get used to the mulligans and playstyle of the deck. Timing Shadowform correctly is one of the most important things you need to know. Also, make sure you play Reno Jackson after you draw one of your Shadowforms else it will not work. It is a common mistake that happens in high pressure situations and you forget the pre-requisites of Reno Jackson to pull its effect off. Entomb is another consideration you need to make. If you take a card like Ragnaros the Firelord or Sylvanas Windrunner into your deck, make sure you draw one of the two in the deck to get the effect off. Even though Reno has an yellow aura when it is active, I have noticed instances where even streamers played Reno without waiting to see the animation due to how fast some of us tend to play.
Mulligans (against Aggro)
Against slower decks you can keep your 4 drops and above. You should also keep high value resurrect targets like Injured Blademaster if you know you have Resurrect in hand. You can also keep AoEs in hand against decks that flood the board as well.
When Should You Play A Highlander Deck?
Whenever the meta is jam-packed with decks that like to play on curve and flood the board, you should be able to take advantage of them quite handily. One of the biggest weaknesses of such decks is that they do not run too many spot removal cards, so they will not be able to deal with all of your threats. Also, playing aggressively curved decks also means they will run out of steam and once you stabilize with Reno Jackson you will be able to apply enough pressure to push them out of the game.
Needless to say, these highlander decks do lose some amount of consistency when it comes to getting your removals in time and you need to aggressively mulligan for early game removals due to the amount of dead draws you can have. While on the other side of the coin, they are very rewarding to play and Reno Jackson’s heal can instantly push aggressive decks on the back foot and they might not have enough steam to deal 30 damage all over again.
The best thing about these kinds of decks is how much you are able to customize them based on your needs. You will love how much you can tinker with the lists and moving one card in and out can make a whole lot of difference.
The Future of Highlander Decks
With the Kabal getting some of the coolest cards this expansion and all three classes from the Kabal gang getting access to cards that support the highlander style of deckbuilding, it is not unrealistic to assume that they will continue to exist even after Reno Jackson moves out of Standard when the first expansion of 2017 comes. Until then, we can all get rich and see the despair on our opponents’ faces when we make comebacks using what possibly is one of the best comeback legendaries made in the game. Let me know what decks from the above compilation you try out or if you have any suggestions for the decklists and I will try them out for sure. All of these lists are viable for a climb to legend, although the games are not going to be fast since they all rely on beating your opponent in terms of value and grinding out games against them. We will be getting more of such decks in about a month and if you are like me, who loves deckbuilding, the Hearthstone has a lot in store coming our way!