The New Standard: Renounce Darkness (Feat. N’zoth)

Hello there ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. After a long hiatus (and many requests) the Brewmaster has returned, this time with Standard on the mind. While many liked the last series, the meta had grown so stale and the cards so “meh” that it was time to hang up the spurs and put it […]

Introduction

Hello there ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. After a long hiatus (and many requests) the Brewmaster has returned, this time with Standard on the mind. While many liked the last series, the meta had grown so stale and the cards so “meh” that it was time to hang up the spurs and put it all to rest for a little while. However, now that Standard has been upon us for some time, I thought it would be pertinent to try to do some new brewing. As you all know, deck building is my favorite part of the game and what I do best. As a result, it is always fun to saddle up the horses and see what cool cards and new interactions Hearthstone has in store. Whispers has brought a ton of new tools, and we’re going to see which ones we can take to legend.

I spent a long time thinking about what deck to use to bring back the series, and I have to say that nothing called my name as much as Renounce Darkness. Yes, the card seems like a janky casual card. And yes, there are many people (including myself) who have said it sucked. However, this is the Brewmaster, and the more I thought about the card the more I thought about different ways it could be good. While getting a bunch of random class cards isn’t great, getting a bunch of random class cards reduced by one is much, much better. The more I thought about it, the more I got excited at the prospect. While this is the early version of the list, I think there is some real potential here. Almost everyone who has tried to renounce the darkness has gone the aggro route. This ones goes the exact opposite, into the realm of heavy control.

The Deck

The funny thing about Renounce Darkness is, as random as the effect is, you actually have some control over how the deck operates. This is because the ability only affects Warlock cards, meaning all of the neutral cards in the deck are going to remain unchanged. As such, you want to build a renounce deck with two different modes. Half of the deck is going to serve as your “renounce” shell that you want to get changed as the game goes on, and half is going to be your core neutral cards that lead to another path of victory.

When scoping out a good renounce deck, I knew that card draw would be the most important factor. Not only do you want to actually see your renounces every single game, but you also want to maximize the number of cards in your hand when you play the spell. Lifetap is going to greatly help with this, but I think you need more ways that impact the board. There is simply too much Shaman to ignore the opening board while Lifetapping. That thought process brought me to Loot Hoarder, which then brought me to Polluted Hoarder. At that point, I was thinking about deathrattle, which then led me to N’zoth, the Corruptor.

N’zoth is one of the best finishers in Standard, and one of the scariest cards to face down for any deck. As I was already planning to operate in a control shell, it was quite easy to fit the N’zoth package into my neutral half. There are not a ton of neutral deathrattles, but there are enough solid threats that this card is often going to win you the game when played at the right time. In this way, the deck has two win conditions, which I think is essential for Renounce Darkness to work. You have the Renounce Darkness my-whole-deck-costs-one-less route, as well as the giant N’zoth deathrattle extravaganza. Blending those two styles is very important and allows you to play games in a wide variety of different ways.

Beyond the neutral old god cards, the Warlock cards are here to do one thing: control. I jam packed just about every kill spell and AOE the class has into this list, giving you time to draw into your various combo pieces. The biggest threat I see to a deck like this is getting overwhelmed early, and I want to stop that from happening as much as possible. Running so many duplicates may seem odd, but it is important to realize that most of the time you are planning on the second versions of those cards to change into something else before they become relevant. You also want to draw them as much as you can. There are a few oddities and silver bullets (which will largely be explained in the video), but for the most part you want every Warlock card you have to help you control the game before you give into the light.

Key Cards

This section will help to explain why certain cards are in the list, what I think about them, and how they’ve performed so far.

Corruption

Oh yeah, we’re going all-in. And by that I mean, Everything. Must. Die. Corruption is a card that has seen little to no play since the early days of Hearthstone, but I actually think it is in a really good position right now. I once ran it in my combo Warlock decks as a way to deal with Undertaker, and I think it could serve a similar purpose now. The reason is that this card is actually quite strong against the new minion-based versions of Shaman, holding their early threats like Tunnel Trogg and Totem Golem to just one hit. That is very important because taking two from Tunnel Trogg is not a problem if it dies immediately after. The same rule applies to Totem Golem as well as cards like Flame Imp, making them spells rather than reoccurring sources of damage. That greatly limits the potential of aggro as you move into the middle turns of the game.

The two biggest things holding this card back were hyper-aggro and efficient deathrattle minions. One, because hyper-aggro does not care about their minions living for more than a turn as long as they get in damage, and two, sticky deathrattle minions meant you were taking damage to only deal with half the problem. Now that most deathrattle minions and hyper, burn based aggro are largely gone, this card has a chance to shine. It is not the most effective removal option we have, but it sure comes in handy against anything that grows in power (such as Darkshire Councilman). Add on the fact that this can also be used to take out a large midgame threat (which is extremely useful in control matchups) and you have very strong catch-all removal.

Renounce Darkness

The deck’s namesake, Renounce Darkness is a lot trickier to play than it first appears. So much so that I will admit I have a lot of learn about this card. While it may seem obvious to just play it when you can, it is not so simple. You need to evaluate your hand, your possible cards and the way the board looks.  As mentioned, this card’s effect is quite unique in that it only effects Warlock cards. Being able to keep your neutral cards untouched allows you to see how your hand is going to look after you play it. This will help you decide if you want to play it right away or if you want to hold back. I think keeping a strong hand is fine (especially if you are winning your current matchup), but if you have priority or a strong board, you should renounce.

Something that is very important to note about Renounce Darkness is that it is going to take away your hero power. That can be a large problem and makes it so whatever you have in your hand is what you are going to get. You lose your ability to naturally draw cards, making your power level drop as a whole. Though I am not sure how to overcome this setback just yet, there are several options (one of which will be covered below. Losing Lifetap is never going to be good, but there are a few hero powers I wouldn’t mind having. It is going to take some testing before I make up my mind how many cards I need to slot in to overcome the hero power change (Sir Finley Mrrgglton is an option), but I may not need to slot in any cards at all.

Justicar Trueheart

Speaking of hero powers, I think this deck could use Justicar Trueheart. Now, I’ll admit this may be going too deep, but I rather like the idea of playing tournament champion in this list. While I am really excited at the prospect of getting a bunch of discounted cards, I do not like losing Lifetap (as covered above). A lot of neutral card draw may keep you afloat after you see the light, but there has to be some mitigation to losing your best asset. The reason I think Justicar works so well here is because she is a catch-all safety net that helps you no matter what you get stuck with. Since you cannot get Lifetap, there are six hero powers out of eight that you typically want to upgrade. Those are Druid, Paladin, Mage, Priest, Warrior and Shaman (yes Shaman). The only two you don’t really need to buff are Hunter and Rogue. Those are pretty good odd that going to usually give the 6/3 some serious value. You never want to play her before renounce, but I think she is going to help in a lot of games by giving some extra power, especially with something like Lesser Heal or Armor Up. That being said, this could also be trying too hard and maybe its better to just stick with whatever power RNGesus decides to give me. Only time will tell.

Big Game Hunter/Harrison Jones

First messing with this deck, it is important to note that, should things go your way, you are going to lose all of you spells to Renounce Darkness. There’s simply nothing you can do about that. Though you most likely will get new ones from your new class, that is no guarantee. Even if you do, there is no way which spells you are going to get. That means you cannot plan around renounce. Rather, you want to have some neutral options that also act as spells. That means they need to have an effect such as drawing cards (Loot Hoarder), locking up the game (N’zoth the Corruptor) or stealing minions (Sylvanas Windrunner). The two cards listed above are all important because they have a very strong effect that can cripple your opponent’s gameplan even if renounce doesn’t give you the answers you want.

Each of these three tech cards is important because you cannot simply build a renounce deck by going all in on the two mana spell. You need some safety measures. Big Game Hunter, while slower than it once was, is still one of the best ways to kill big threats and will help you out should your renounce not give you any solid removal. In the same vein, Harrison Jones is key due to the high volume of weapon decks on ladder. While I originally wanted this to be Acidic Swamp Ooze due to how it fits into the curve and lets me stretch out mana, Harrison is better because of how badly this decks wants to draw cards. He’s good before renounce to set it up, but he is also very powerful after for refilling your hand.

N’zoth the Corruptor

The other win condition of this deck, N’zoth,the Corruptor is an incredibly strong finisher that has shaped the early format of Standard. When choosing a neutral vein to run through Renounce Darkness you need it to be so powerful it can win the game on its own. N’zoth is that card here, a giant board swing that will end the game if unanswered for even one turn. Yes, there are not a ton of deathrattle targets in this list, but there are enough to make it so that this card is going to always represent lethal. A 5/7 body is strong on its own (just ask Doomguard), but when that comes with even two or three other value minions it is going to put your opponent in a bad spot. There are very few AOE options in the current meta, making this card a true game-ender should you get it down in the correct window.

An important part of this card (and this deck) is the element of surprise. Once your opponent realizes you’re a slower Warlock they are going to assume you are Renolock (something else I have also considered for this build). Then, once you Renounce Darkness they are going to assume you are one-dimensional, giving you a chance to really hit them where it hurts. I would wager than not one opponent you play is going to see N’zoth,the Corruptor coming, meaning it is going to end the game vs. almost anyone. If your opponent doesn’t know you have a finisher in your deck, they aren’t going to save their AOE or solid removal for it. As a result, you can often bait them into playing their last out and then crushing them with a gigantic board.

Note: I’m not going to do a full mulligan breakdown just yet, since I need more time playing the deck to give an accurate read. However, I will say that you basically just want to “sell low, buy high.” That means you want to keep all of your early cards and throw the rest back. You need to start out by removing minions (or tapping against control) and due to the lack of taunts and healing you never want to fall behind. Keeping slow cards is never right.

Final Thoughts

Well, I will admit that things are going much better than I initially expected. In fact, I really thought the opening was going to be a real struggle that sent me back to the drawing board multiple times, but the truth is things have gone very smooth (with the one exception where I absolutely blew that Warrior game). I am not sure that is going to continue (it never does) but right now I am really liking the direction the deck is going in.

The card I have my eye on the most is Polluted Hoarder. While drawing is obviously great (not to mention the synergy with N’zoth) I think the card may just be a little too weak for what it is. I have never once felt good about playing a 4/2 for four, even when it draws me a card or trades. I could try and get something a little more proactive in that slot. On the other hand, I am loving the removal suite. If I do move away from the hoarders I may want to put in some more removal spells, such as a second Siphon Soul or perhaps try and mess around with another Bane of Doom. The multiple ways to kill things really comes in handy and helps you outpace your opponent as the game goes on. In particular, Corruption has been a real all-star for me.

A card I keep thinking about is Corrupted Seer. I noticed early on the biggest reason I would not Renounce Darkness was because of a lack of AOE. There are a ton of very strong mass removal options in this list and I find that I am holding back on my combo a lot to make sure I have access to them when the time comes. There are a lot of popular decks in the current meta that love to swarm the board, making AOE premium value. In that vein, I think having a neutral board clear that can survive past Renounce Darkness could come in handy. As mentioned, you want your neutral cards to be spells, and the seers are quite strong in the right situations. I am not sure if I want one or two (if I want them at all) but it is certainly worth testing in the coming days. Doomsayer is also an option I have been toying with, I am just worried it might be too weak after Renounce.

Conclusion

Well, there it is. I always love bringing something fresh and exciting to Hearthstone, and Renounce Darkness is certainly that. While I am a notorious hater of RNG (and all RNG related things) the two mana spell is the fun kind of RNG that really makes games interesting. Sometimes it wins, sometimes it stalls out and sometimes it goes crazy. You really can’t ask for more than that, and it is extremely fun trying to make it competitive. I am always up for a challenge, and this certainly is going to be one. Until next time, may you always see the light.