The meta is as diverse as it has ever been. That is good news from a player standpoint, but it also makes the game a bit trickier overall. The reason is that you have to be ready for a wide range of decks. Aggro Shaman is very good at this because its consistent openings and strong burst are good against just about every deck in the meta. However, it, like everything else, has its hard matchups as well. One of those is Renolock, one of the most popular iterations of Warlock around. This guide will breakdown that matchup and look at how Aggro Shaman stands up to the wise-cracking explorer.
As of right now there are two popular builds of Aggro Shaman. One of those is the hyper-aggressive version that combines early game with burn and charge minions. That list plays a lot like Face Hunter, where the board is much less important than damage. The other version, while still extremely aggressive, plays a lot like Aggro Druid. That is, it runs a little slower and uses more board control to rack up the damage through minions. Whatever version you want to play, just understand that you should always stick to the style that best suits your play. If you understand all-face, then be aggressive. However, if you want to build the board, then go a little slower. To help you get started, a guide to building the more aggressive version has been linked below.
When playing against Warlock you are always going to mulligan for Renolock. This is because you can easily rebound if your opponent is Zoo, but if you guess wrong against Renolock you are really going to suffer. When facing down Gul’dan you just want to get as many low cost cards into your hand as possible. Though it may seem strange, this entire game is going to be a race. You are trying to kill them before they heal in the same way that Face Hunter tried to end Handlock before their giant taunts came to town. To do that you need to come out of the gate swinging. Keeping high cost cards is not really an option, since even one turn of nothing can lead to a quick loss.
Cards to KeepTunnel Trogg Abusive Sergeant Sir Finley Mrrgglton Lightning Bolt Leper Gnome Knife Juggler Ancestral Knowledge Totem Golem
Lava Shock can be kept if you have no turn two play or if you have a large amount of overload.
Crackle is a good keep alongside early minions.
Feral Spirit should always be kept with the coin or a one-two punch coming before it.
Argent Horserider follows the same rules as Feral Spirit.
Lava Burst is very strong if you have a fast opening.
How to Win
This matchup largely comes down to one thing: healing. While Renolock does not have the best heals in the game, they do have access to the most effective. Going back to thirty is absolutely backbreaking, and even just an Antique Healbot can really set you back if you aren’t careful. While you do have a lot of burn, you typically don’t want to stretch it out over multiple turns just in case of a full heal. Rather, hoard it and then unleash it (or most of it) all at once.
The best way to fight potential healing is through an enormous amount of pressure. Each card you have represents some sort of damage, and you are going to need that damage. You almost never want to waste removal on the board unless you desperately need to keep your minions alive and force them into burning AOE.
Despite their healing, always remember that most Renolocks only run one or two taunts. Those are usually Defender of Argus and Sludge Belcher, though sometimes Sunfury Protector can be thrown into the mix. This is important to note, because it means any charge minions you run (along with Doomhammer) are often going to be live. This means you can hold them a turn two later than you normally would, which allows you to better develop the board.
Early Game Strategy
As mentioned above, you need to start out fast. This means playing anything and everything you can during the early turns of the game. If your opponent answers it, that’s fine. However, if they don’t have an immediate answer (or better yet if they Lifetap) then you can really start taking chunks out of their life.
You want to play a lot looser here than you normally would just to get things down. For instance, running out a turn two Knife Juggler, while weak against a lot of matchups, is fine since it is three damage if they can’t kill it.
An important thing about the first turns is to understand your opening, which will affect the way you play the rest of the game. If you have a lot of minions then you will often want to control the board a little more. This means clearing out their small minions to prevent them from trading into your larger ones. However, if you have a lot of direct damage or burn then you want to just get in as many hits as possible and let them trade into you.
One last tip. Try to not use Rockbiter Weapon early on. If you absolutely need to clear something it is a fine tool, but they represent the most burst you have when combined with Doomhammer. That combo will win you many games, so you want to preserve it when you can.
These turns of the game where Renolock can heal, but it is also where your haymakers start coming down. Lava Burst and Crackle do a ton of damage, and are great ways to clear out any taunts. In that same vein, Doomhammer can just win the game on its own, and you should never hesitate to run out the epic weapon.
If you do get to a point in the middle game where Reno (or other healing) is going to come out before you have lethal, you need to change your strategy a bit. While you still want to go for the face, you also want to do your best to create a favorable board state. This will allow you to keep up the pressure even after they heal. Most big heals cost a good amount of mana, and if you can get them to use their whole turn on it, you can usually only fall one step behind instead of just losing the game.
One of the best ways to do this is to hoard something like Doomhammer/Rockbiter Weapon in your hand or by just filling the board with minions. Both strategies are fine, just understand that being able to respond to a heal is one of the most important parts of the game and that comes to fruition during the middle turns.
Late Game Strategy
Normally, Aggro Shaman has the advantage the longer the game goes because every turn that goes by is more burn you can draw. However, that changes here because each turn that goes by is a turn they are closing to drawing Reno Jackson. That card doesn’t always end the game, but it does ninety percent of the time. You need to get to them fast, even if that means just selling a two turn lethal to put them in range.
The one part of the end game that falls into your favor is that Renolock is not a deck that supplies a ton of pressure. They also have very few burst options. This means you really can ignore the board during the later stages and dig for finishing damage as much as you can.
One last thing to be aware of is Lord Jaraxxus. Not the most imposing card in the world (and capping them at fifteen can be good for you) but the healing can also set you back. Every point of life matters, and if your opponent suddenly gains eight or ten (or even five) it can take you away from lethal, which means
Do what you can to bait your opponent into a false sense of security. A lot of playing Aggro Shaman is trying to trick your opponent into thinking you don’t have lethal when you really do. That is especially important in this match. If you can feign that you don’t have lethal, they will often play a little looser and lifetap more.