The New Standard: Season 1, Episode 2 (Renounce Darkness)

What wonders a week does. One of my favorite things about deck building is how fun it is to tweak and change a deck as time moves on. Sometimes those are big sweeping changes, such as altering the core of the deck or going with a new finisher, and sometimes it is a series of […]

Introduction

What wonders a week does. One of my favorite things about deck building is how fun it is to tweak and change a deck as time moves on. Sometimes those are big sweeping changes, such as altering the core of the deck or going with a new finisher, and sometimes it is a series of small tweaks. I find the small tweaks much more fun and engaging, because they show that you understand the deck and meta. Last week I set out to create a shell with Renounce Darkness that I could tweak and start to refine as the weeks went on. However, as mentioned last time, this deck has been much more successful that I initially planned. The control shell is very strong, especially in the meta with so much aggro running around, and the two-tiered attack works very well at hitting the meta from both sides. On one hand you have all of the removal you need to keep up with the faster decks, but you also have the N’zoth package to handle control (not to mention the random wins you are going to get with Renounce Darkness). I am not saying this is perfect or in the final iteration, but there are less tweaks than I planned. Even so, the small changes are always very important, and explaining the shifts I made is key to understanding the deck as a whole.

Where We Are Now

On the whole, this deck has been quite successful and has really surprised me . The biggest thing I can say is that N’zoth, the Corruptor is essential. Absolutely essential. While Renounce Darkness has won me countless games, having that extra back up win condition is absolutely crucial for a deck like this. It may not seem that N’zoth has all that much impact with so few deathrattles, but just getting the 5/7 with a Loot Hoarder and Sylvanas Windrunner or Cairne Bloodhoof can end the game on the spot. However, you will notice that I cut Polluted Hoarder from the list. While the card was good at times, I found it had two problems. One, it just didn’t have a huge impact as a 4/2, and two, I usually didn’t want to draw more cards at the end of the game.

I really like almost all of the tech cards as well, but there are others I would like to experiment with. As I said last week, Corrupted Seer is a card that is still on my mind, since neutral AOE is quite hard to come by. Harrison Jones and Big Game Hunter both seem essential for the current meta, though I would love to do some experimenting with The Black Knight. Justicar Trueheart is the obvious switch to make because of the mana cost, but I really like Trueheart and would not cut her currently.

The biggest changes I have made are to the removal package. It is very hard to try and accurately break down the removal of Warlock because there is just so much of it. Nearly half the spells Warlock has kills something through either spot removal or AOE, and that gives you a wide spread that you need to be able to properly balance. There are probably some more minor tweaks I will make moving forward (I really want that second Bane of Doom) but right now I think I have a good mix of kill spells and mass removal. If you see more aggro you could run the extra AOE, but that is the only reason I would lean that way.

The two things I have been struggling with are healing and taunt. Siphon Soul is the only card that does either in the list. This does come up now and then, but a lot of classes that I switch into have healing through cards or their hero power. If you are really seeing a ton of aggro (which I find to be diminishing as time goes on) then you can try and play things like Refreshment Vendor or Earthen Ring Farseer. However, I really find it not to be needed at the current time, though I do worry about burst. Sacrificial Pact is worth considering due to how good it is against Zoo and how strong it can be with Dreadsteed.

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.

Renounce Darkness

While we discussed it in the first week, it is important to go into more detail about the ways to use Renounce Darkness. I said early on that this is a very tricky card to use, and that could not be more true. There are some games where I will hold this in my hand for many, many turns, and there are others where I will try to play it out as soon as possible. The general rule is that, you want to never play it against aggro until you stabilize (or need to stabilize), and you want to get it down against control as soon as you can. When it comes to aggro, you simply have so many removal options in your deck that you typically don’t want to give them up. As heavy control, your deck is almost tailor-made to fight aggro. There is no reason to give that up. The only exception to that rule is if you desperately need healing or some type of taunt. It may seem like a shot in the dark, but you have a reasonable chance of getting Warrior, Priest or Druid off of a roll, all of which have ample healing spells. That is a last minute gasp, but it can save you sometimes.

In contrast, you need to play this against control as soon as you can, especially when facing Warrior, Priest or Paladin. The reason is that, similar to Mistcaller, it is an effect that control does not want to constantly fight through. Discounted cards are good, but Renounce will change a good amount of your spells into various threats. In this way, you can then simply start playing a minion every turn and forcing your control opponent to burn removal as the game goes on. This constant pressure really wears down on classes with limited removal options. In addition, it also makes your actual threats much stronger. N’zoth is going to win almost all of your control matchups, but you need to bait out AOE before you can slam down the 5/7. Renounce is one of the best ways to do this because a high amount of minions will force your opponent’s hand long before the Old God comes down.

Doomsayer

I know. I do. I was wrong. I said this deck didn’t need Doomsayer, and that’s just simply not true. Anyone who has played with or against the two drop these days knows how incredibly good it is in the current meta, and may have just been stubborn on this one. While some Zoo decks tech in Crazed Alchemist, silence and deathrattle are both largely gone from the game. That makes Doomsayer the best two drop bar none, shutting down aggro and giving you the all-important form of priority against many decks. This absolutely kills the tempo of things like Shaman and Hunter, allowing you to take control of the board or tap without fear of taking large chunks of early damage. Doomsayer is weak after Renounce Darkness (my original reason for keeping this card out of the deck) but the card is so strong early on that it is worth the setback. Also, I find that this card is a very good tool to use during the later turns of the game to offset pressure. You constantly need to be aware of your life total, and Doomsayer is almost always going to buy you seven life no matter when you use it. That in itself can be very important, especially when you need to get to a specific turn during the middle or late game.

Sense Demons

One thing I have learned so far is just how tricky drawing cards is with a deck like this. You want to have a lot in your hand, but you generally want those to come from cards rather than your hero power. Yes, Lifetap is going to carry you through many games, but it is very important to be proactive in this meta. As a result, I wanted more ways to get cards into my hand without spending two life. Sense Demons may not be proactive in the sense that it effects the board, but it is because it helps out your curve (especially with the coin) and enables you to plan ahead. Getting two random cards is something that is very difficult to plan around, but if you know what you are going to get then you can sculpt out your turns. Your mulligan becomes a lot different when you know you’re going to have Imp Gang Boss on turn three.

The reason I like this card is that tutoring (that is being able to search through your deck for a specific card) is one of the strongest effects in any card game. Though it is limited in Hearthstone, you can make some real use out of it when the time comes. Here, because you only run two demons, you are always going to get Imp Gang Boss, with a fifty percent chance to get a second Imp Gang Boss/Dreadsteed. That means you can almost always curve this into Dreadsteed, or use it with the coin to get a turn three Imp Gang Boss. That immensely helps out your curve and is always going to provide an extra type of consistency. Also note that if you do not have two demons to draw you are going to get Worthless Imps. Those are Warlock cards and will proc off of Renounce Darkness.

Dreadsteed

In the same vein as the top card, Dreadsteed. It may be easy to see the obvious synergy with Sense Demons, the steed is worth mentioning because it is so much more than that. A 1/1 is, quite literally, the least inspiring thing in Hearthstone. However, a 1/1 that can never die is much, much more interesting. One damage plays really well with your removal, giving you some extra reach, and just having something on the board to attack into aggro minions can be very important. Just like with Doomsayer, there are very few answers to the steed, so having it as a one-of tech card is very strong. Silence and Priest are the two things that really punish the steed, and both of those are largely done out of the meta. However, if you do play a Priest never play this card. Ever.

The other reason this card is so good is because of how well it holds buffs. There are many classes (more than I initially expected) that have buffs. While you are not always going to get one of them (or the buffs) when you Renounce Darkness, I found that many times they were in my hand. However, due to the nature of a control deck, I would never have anything that could stick around to put them on. Dreadsteed gives you a 1/1 that you are always going to have on the board and gives you a way to make use of those cards. Sometimes it can hold a Cold Blood, sometimes it will be used with Blessing of Kings, and sometimes you are just going to get value from Mark of the Wild. Either way, the steed just opens up your options and makes your Renounce just that much better. In addition, it also will fill the board with steeds when you play N’zoth, ending the game a lot of the time.

Sylvanas Windrunner

As with Renounce Darkness, Sylvanas Windrunner is a very tricky card to use. While she is not a win condition, she is so inherently powerful that she may as well be. There are three different ways to use Sylvanas, all of which come at key points. One is the tempo play, where you get her down to stall your opponent’s push, two is for value to steal a large minion, and three is AOE with Shadowflame. With only one teched in Shadowflame, you typically are only going to use that against Paladin to take Tirion Fordring or slow control to steal an end-game finisher. Normally, you want to play her as a tempo play to either force your opponent to trade (protecting your life and clearing their board) or giving them a bad decision. Most people are going to take the time to clear Sylvanas, and that means you are always going to have control of the tempo.

Do not be afraid of letting her die. It can be extremely tempting to try and get the dream with Sylvanas simply because of how good her ability is. However, not only do you want to use her for tempo more than anything else, you also run N’zoth, the Corruptor. She is almost always going to come back after she dies, giving you much more leeway with her than you normally have. That fact is usually what allows you to play a little more loose than her. That does not mean you want to just run her out without thinking about it, but losing on “value” or having her die right away is not always the end of the world. She will eventually return.

Mathchups

These are the five matchups that made up almost all of my games in my climb.

Aggro Shaman

While not nearly as popular as it was a week or two ago, Aggro Shaman is still holding its own. This deck is something you need to have a plan for, and most of the cards piled into our list help with that. Doomsayer absolutely crushes Shaman, and can lead to wins on its own. Not only does it immediately halt a turn one Tunnel Trogg or coined Totem Golem, but it also gives you priority to freely operate on turn three. Once you can get a minion down on an empty board you should be able to take control of the game. In fact, running out a turn four, five or six Doomsayer just to stop Shaman from playing minions and allow you to get something down on an empty board can be a huge swing. As you move into the later turns of the game you want to pull the trigger on Renounce Darkness to open you up to more healing or taunt options.

One of the most important things to note (especially when figuring out how much damage potential your opponent has) is that Shaman is much more minion based than it once was. While some lists still have burn packed in, almost all popular decks got rid of their heavy damage packages for solid midgame threats like Flamewreathed Faceless, Tuskarr Totemic and Thing from Below. This means you have a little more leeway than you once had. Yes, they still have plenty of burst at their disposal, but it is not the critical mass it used to be. The most important card (as always) to watch out for is Doomhammer. If you don’t have Harrison Jones you want to be careful as possible with your health during the middle turns to limit what the windfury weapon can do.

Tempo Warrior

With each passing day, Tempo Warrior is a deck that keeps solidifying its spot in the meta. It is a very fast, very reliable deck that has strong plays from turn one all the way to turn ten. Even so, it is a list that you can combat very well. The reason for this is because of how Warrior operates. Rather than something like Patron, Tempo loves to play a solid threat each turn, which they use to slowly build up their damage. That works very well for you because most of your removal is made to kill one thing after another. Here you want to just play control, slowly wearing your opponent down and running them out of damage. Once their large finishers are gone, you should be able to stall long enough until you can play a big N’zoth. That is not going to be easy, but once you get ahead on board you should be able to hold your own.

The most important part of playing against Tempo Warrior is calculating the ways they can kill you. Though they are midrange, that comes with an aggressive shell that can be used to push damage through and keep their opponent on the back foot. They do this to set up their finishers, which range from Malkorok to Ragnaros the Firelord to Grommash Hellscream. That is not to mention the weapons or charge minions they can draw. Kor’kron Elite is a real threat, and each finisher they have do (or can do) immediate damage. Never dip down into the lower life totals. Once that happens you will have to play defensively, giving your opponent ample time draw into the damage than you cannot escape. Be sure to save your Siphon Souls for the end game.

Zoo

This matchup is going to be a tricky one to evaluate since I have seen very little of it so far over the season. However, it is still one of the most popular decks around and I thought it deserved a mention. As I said in the opening, this deck is made to beat Zoo. Not only do you have ample spot removal, but your early threats and AOE can handle just about anything that comes your way. The aggressive Warlock is simply not built with the resiliency it once had, and once you kill things, they die. That is very important because it makes your AOE (and Doomsayers) very powerful. Your main goal here should be to keep the board clear. Zoo needs its minions to operate well, and you should always limit any board presence they might have. This is especially important for tight pinches. While you may not want to Siphon Soul your opponent’s Defender of Argus, it can be the right play as you fall to, or below, ten life.

The rule of this game is simply to stay alive at all costs. Clearing helps with that more than anything, but it is also important to note that Zoo has a lot of different finishing options. Power Overwhelming is always going to be a present source of four damage, but most Zoo decks also run Leeroy Jenkins or Doomguard. Those charges make it so Zoo has extra reach that you should always calculate into your plays when figuring out their damage potential. It also gives them ways to push through even when they do not have access to minions on the board. As a result, while clearing is very efficient, it does not mean you are safe. If you are looking down an empty board you want to try and heal up (or Renounce Darkness to look for healing) whenever you can.

N’zoth Paladin

N’zoth Paladin is the best (and most popular) control deck in the game. It is also one of your hardest matchups. There are two things you need to do to take this matchup down, and each of them is essential to understand. The first is setting up your N’zoth, the Corruptor. Paladin only has two clears in their Equalities, but they are going to clear the board. As such, you need to get them out of your opponent’s hand in anyway possible. This is not easy to do. You want to just try and flood the board with minions whenever possible strictly to get your opponent to use AOE. Paladin, like so many decks, is not going to see N’zoth coming. That makes them much more lenient in the way that they play. I have seen many Paladins burn Equality on a couple minions, only to die to the old god the following turn.

The other important aspect of understanding this matchup is getting to Renounce Darkness as quickly as you can. As mentioned, you want to run the card out as soon as possible against control because you want a high density of threats. That is especially strong against Paladin because of how most of their power comes from healing and mass AOE. One single card each turn can really set them back, especially when combined with some of your inherently strong midgame threats like Cairne Bloodhoof. Your whole goal here is to stretch their removal and run them low on cards. Yes, you do not have an answer to their N’zoth, but if you control the tempo you should be able to get ahead. Just try and save Sylvanas Windrunner for Tirion Fordring if possible.

Miracle Rogue

What year is it? That is a question I ask myself every time I queue up against Valeera and her band of combo spells. Miracle Rogue is back, and is a very tricky deck because of how well they can combat your hard removal through Conceal and burst. While many decks do not have Leeroy Jenkins (rather than just depending on Cold Blood) it is very hard to keep up with their damage, especially once they get a huge Gadgetzan Auctioneer. The way you win this game is by being careful. You need to clear every single card they play and always make sure you are putting some kind of pressure. Simply playing draw-go will eventually allow them to draw into burst. Rogue is also going to have many turns where they don’t have a board or are setting up future plays. That means you are going to have ample opportunities to play Renounce Darkness. You should try and play the card during the middle turns, which will give you more options and ways to answer later threats.

Conclusion

The second week is always going to be the most important when building a deck. The first week is always going to be a rough draft, something that is a little thrown together that you need to work on. While the shell (and double win conditions) worked very well for me the first time around, now I feel like I have been making some very important tweaks. Each card matters immensely in a deck like this, and it is always good to test out different options. While we may not be at the final form, things are getting much closer. Until next time, may you always see the light.