For those who never read any of my deck-building guides, I usually play 50 games at legend rank with a deck I built and then report my results. The article is composed of different sections. Firstly, I discuss the idea behind the deck and the cards which cannot be removed, some cards are needed for the game plan of the deck to work (best example is reno-jackson in Reno decks). After this, I discuss the role of every card which is not core to the deck and all possible alternatives I considered. Lastly, I discuss my statistics and give my general experience in the match-ups I played more than four times, this should give you a general idea of how the deck plays in the current metagame. With these decks I don’t strive for very high win-rates, anything above 45% I consider successful for an experimental deck at the legend ranks.
Making an original Reno Warlock list is hard, there are so many variations of the deck. Combolock, C’Thun Renolock, N’Zoth Renolock, and hell even Yogg’Saron Doom Renolock lists have all popped up on the Competitive Hearthstone Reddit at different times. What I tried to do with this deck is to limit the late game by relying solely on leeroy-jenkins combo and lord-jaraxxus to close out games against other control decks, giving me the possibility to include more early game options. You can see from the list that my early game is quite powerful, there are fifteen (fourteen not counting shifter-zerus) cards which cost three mana or less. This is why I didn’t include cards like nzoth-the-corruptor or mountain-giant, I wanted my hand to be the least clunky as possible in order to be able to cycle fast in control match-ups and have a lot of options against aggressive decks. If we look at the win conditions of the deck we can see three: Leeroy combo, Jaraxxus and grinding the opponent out of resources. Pretty standard for a Reno Combolock.
Overall the deck is not that different from other Reno Jackson lists but I think it does have some interesting inclusions (and this is why it is Hipster), with cards such as argent-horserider and possessed-villager which rarely make the cut in other lists. I feel that I should have made the deck even less greedy, cutting ragnaros-the-firelord and Shifter Zerus to really go through with the glass cannon build. Rethinking about it now, those are two of the slots which I would really suggest switching out (later on in the article I tell you with what), in order to have a more successful build.
The Core of the Deck-list
In the 50 games I played I maintained the same deck-list throughout to have a decent sample size when analysing the cards. I consider the following cards the core of the deck: power-overwhelming, demonwrath, hellfire, shadowflame, twisting-nether, leeroy-jenkins, reno-jackson, faceless-manipulator and emperor-thaurissan. Reno Jackson is the reason you play a Reno Warlock, not much to say about why this one is core. Demonwrath, Hellfire, Shadowflame and Twisting Nether are all board clears that are very useful when playing for the late game. All of them can provide with a comeback mechanism if you fall behind on board, additionally they should provide enough stall to get to your power plays. Lastly: Power Overwhelming, Leeroy Jenkins, Faceless Manipulator and Emperor Thaurissan are all part of the Leeroy twenty damage combo, you need only one piece discounted in order to be able to play the full combo at ten mana. If you want to play a Combolock you need to play at least these pieces.
Overall I feel these are the cards which cannot be changed if one doesn’t want to change the idea behind the deck. The rest of the cards are substitutable, with some cards being more important than others.
The Rest of the Deck
abusive-sergeant: This card is part of the early game plan, buffing a minion can provide good tempo in the early turns. Abusive Sergeant, if Emperor discounted, can also provide an additional four damage of reach when comboed with Leeroy Jenkins and Faceless Manipulator. Remember, the card can always be played on turn one to answer early drops (flame-imp and huge-toad come to mind), this is essential to not get snowballed out of the game against aggressive decks. Overall it seemed a good card which was flexible enough to be included in the list.
mortal-coil: I put this card in the deck because I wanted all the help I could get to remove early threats. The main problem I have with Mortal Coil is that in the current metagame the two main classes, Shaman and Warrior, can deal very easily with one health minions (think maelstrom-portal and ravaging-ghoul). This consequentially means one health minions are played less because they are weak against meta decks. Often I found I had difficulties using this card in order to remove early threats, this is bad as the card didn’t do what it was supposed to do. On the other hand, Warlock currently doesn’t have access to many other early spell thus I feel including Mortal Coil is mandatory. Maybe including bloodmage-thalnos or azure-drake would be a good idea to make Mortal Coil better on average.
possessed-villager: The card can usually trade in the early game by itself and is insane when coupled with Power Overwhelming and Abusive Sergeant. On top of that, you can force the opponent to make awkward trades as it is usually much harder to deal one damage twice than dealing two damage once. I like this card because it puts you on board very early and it can support Mortal Coil and Shadowbolt to hit higher damage thresholds when on board. Lastly, it gives you a body to buff when trying to clear the board with Shadowflame.
shifter-zerus: The main reason I played this card was to test it out. Overall Shifter Zerus isn’t bad, the longer you hold it the more probable it will be you will find something good. The main problem I have with this proposition, is that in my list I already pack all the late game I want, I don’t usually need more in order to win. This means that Shifter Zerus doesn’t shine in this list since you would rather have something you can play early in the game rather than another late game tool.
acidic-swamp-ooze: I think in this metagame if you are playing a Reno Jackson deck you have to play weapon removal, Shamans, Hunters and Warriors are rampant on ladder. The choice was between harrison-jones and Acidic Swamp Ooze, I chose the latter because Ooze is more flexible as it can be played alongside other cards. Additionally, you can use Life Tap to draw as many cards as you want, I didn’t feel Harrison was needed in this list.
dark-peddler: This card could be considered core of the deck-list, strong early tool which cycles itself for a card which you can usually make use of. I don’t think I need to emphasize this, but when you get a Power Overwhelming off Peddler it is especially good as you can set up a one hit KO on your opponent. Additionally picking a one mana cost minion is awesome, it can enable easy Shadowflame combos. Overall not much more to say, remember that sometimes picking sir-finley-mrrgglton is the correct choice!
doomsayer: This card is really good, it enables you to survive the early game against aggressive decks whilst also providing late game utility by potentially having the ability to deny key turns if the timing is guessed right (for example a gadgetzan-auctioneer plus conceal turns). Also, take in consideration that against control decks you can potentially make the opponent waste resources if you play Doomsayer when he has 10 cards in hand. In general it is very important to learn to play this card right, it one of the most powerful tools in the game if timed correctly. I think I would never consider taking this card out of the deck since it performed amazingly well in all aspects of the game.
sunfury-protector: In the standard Reno lists you might opt for not playing this card, there are better defensive options for this slot, for example senjin-shieldmasta. The reason why I included it in the deck is that against Control decks you want to win with Lord Jaraxxus, if you don’t hide behind a taunt wall after playing the card you will often succumb to face damage. Also consider that as a 2/3 you can play it early to attempt to contest 1 or 2-drops, even if this is not ideal. Lastly, it can always be coupled with cards such as sylvanas-windrunner and Ragnaros to force some awkward trades.
argent-horserider: I love this card in this Reno list, it is just so flexible! Sometimes, when you cannot find Leeroy Jenkins, Argent Horserider can provide a charging body to close out the game for a mini twelve damage combo with Faceless Manipulator and Power Overwhelming. Other times you can just use it to trade with a low drops such as tuskarr-totemic, this grants you with decent tempo. Lastly, it can always function as removal in the late game. This is especially true when coupled with cards such as Abusive Sergeant, Shadowflame or Power Overwhelming.
brann-bronzebeard: Brann is very powerful if you play enough Battlecries which benefit from it in the deck, the tempo it can provide can overwhelm your opponent. The deck currently plays six cards which heavily benefit from Brann’s inclusion in the deck. Considering that very often by turn 5 you will have drawn 10 cards, meaning that on average you should have at least one card to couple with Brann. Additionally, when dropped on turn three, the opponent has to respect it and kill it because you can threaten to play a huge twilight-drake. If this happens often it will mean the opponent will have to waste a hard removal on the Drake and you will get the better end out of the trade.
earthen-ring-farseer: By itself the card isn’t great, a 3/3 turn three gets traded in easily and three life gain rarely makes the difference. The reason you run this card in the deck is the synergy with Brann, six burst heal is pretty decent. Overall, I feel the card is on the weaker side but it is needed because the deck needs healing and there are not many other life gain options in standard.
imp-gang-boss: Pretty awesome early game option, it contests 2-drops whilst also being very annoying to deal with cleanly. Even if the deck cannot make very good use of tokens, a one damage removal can always be helpful to close out damage ranges. Not much more to say about this one, just a solid early drop.
shadow-bolt: Dealing four damage for three mana is pretty awful, the problem is you do not have many other options for early removal. Additionally, consider this card goes one for one with totem-golem on curve, this is not bad in the current metagame. Once again you are forced to play this Warlock spell because of the lack of options, adding Spell Power to the deck might be a worthwhile investment to make Shadowbolt better on average.
defender-of-argus: I decided to include this card in the deck because of the synergy it has with Brann and the fact it supports Lord Jaraxxus. Additionally, sometimes you will be able to play it on two targets on turn four, this isn’t bad considering it can help you contest your opponent’s plays very cleanly. This is especially true if you play it on curve after Imp Gang Boss. Overall, this card is nearly core considering the deck’s game plan.
refreshment-vendor: The heal on your opponent will very rarely matter, meaning that it is a heal for four on close to Vanilla stats. I don’t think I have to say it, but the synergy with Brann was a big factor for including the card in this in the deck. A heal for eight is very useful in a deck which want to Life Tap a lot. Overall the fact it can contest most 3-drops and can provide an effect which is useful makes the card a good inclusion in the deck.
twilight-drake: As a four drop Twilight drake is very flexible, it will nearly always have at least a chillwind-yeti worth of stats, with the potential of becoming really big if you managed to Life Tap the first few turns. Additionally, both Sunfury Protector and Defender of Argus benefit from this inclusion in the deck as you can create a decent size taunt. Overall a good 4-drop that can compete in the metagame where Silences are very rare.
stampeding-kodo: I put this card in the deck as potential removal against aggressive decks. The main problem with Kodo is that, apart from in Zoolock, there are not many good targets in the current metagame. It is especially bad considering Shaman plays flamewreathed-faceless on turn four and Kodo is not a good answer to this play. My thought is that in this spot you can decide to tech according to the metagame. big-game-hunter, the-black-knight or a second weapon removal can all be viable depending on what you are facing the most, as of now Big Game Hunter is probably the correct call.
siphon-soul: Another card you include in the deck because of the lack of removal options. As a single target hard removal the card is awful, it is usually worse than assassinate. On the other hand single target removal is needed in control decks and thus Siphon Soul is needed in any Control Warlock build.
sylvanas-windrunner: With the advent of standard and silences being rarer, Sylvanas is usually a pseudo board clear which allows to come back from difficult board states. This alone makes it an excellent card as the deck really wants more board clears to stall the game. Additionally the card synergises with taunt givers by forcing the opponent into very awkward trades providing you with precious time. Lastly in some match-ups your win condition is to steal a certain minion with Sylvanas (such as tirion-fordring against N’Zoth Paladin). When comboed with Shadowflame Sylvanas should enable you to successfully steal your target most of the times, additionally you always have the more unreliable option of trying to steal the opponents minion with Sylvanas plus Power Overwhelming.
ragnaros-the-firelord: You lack removal thus I decided to play Ragnaros as it can be some sort of unreliable removal. The card performed decently even if it is by its nature inconsistent. Probably one of the cards which I would like to remove from the deck as it doesn’t really cohere that well in the whole game plan of the deck. The only good thing about it is that if you Emperor Thaurissan it you can curve 6-drop into 7-drop Ragnaros which is really powerful.
lord-jaraxxus: This card is your win condition against control decks, especially against Control Warrior. Sometimes you will have to use some piece of the Leeroy combo early thus you need a back-up plan if this happens, infinite Infernals seems like a good idea. When playing this card there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, always keep the coin against Control Warrior, this is in order to not have to rely on Emperor discount to play Jaraxxus plus Hero Power on the same turn. Additionally, Doomsayer can really help you set up the Jaraxxus turn ensuring you won’t be killed with damage follow up. Lastly, always make sure you have a large enough hand size to support Jaraxxus, you really don’t want to run out of steam or lack defensive tools when you transform into Jaraxxus, fifteen damage is not that hard to deal in Hearthstone.
Cards to Consider
forbidden-ritual: Forbidden Ritual is a very flexible card, it can be used on any turn between one and seven to create different quantities of bodies on board. This alone makes it decent in a Reno deck since the card is never dead in hand. The main problem of including Forbidden Ritual is that without darkshire-councilman or dire-wolf-alpha it doesn’t have much synergy in the deck, making it always a sub-par drop for its mana cost.
soulfire: As a removal/tempo tool the card isn’t bad, one mana for four damage is pretty awesome. The main problem with it is that here are a lot of cards in this deck you really don’t want to discard, this is especially true about removal and Reno Jackson. Overall I feel the card is probably too inconsistent to play but the added burst it can provide with the Leeroy Combo certainly makes it so it is worth considering.
voidwalker: This could be another early drop you can add to the deck in order to contest early threats. The main problem I have with including Voidwalker in the deck is that it gets wrecked by Totem Golem and doesn’t really contest many of the early drops which are played right now (think mana-wyrm and tunnel-trogg). Additionally, to trade with it you really need a buff it with Abusive Sergeant. The problem is you have only one Abusive in the deck and thus Voidwalker would do nothing for you most of the times.
bloodmage-thalnos: In Reno decks I usually like to run this card as it is really flexible. In Warlock the draw is not a big deal (not saying it is bad), on the other hand the Spell Damage can help you hit really good break points with Hellfire and Shadowflame. Additionally, it could help make Mortal Coil and Shadowbolt hit more relevant breakpoints; two and five are much better when compared to one and four. I would really like to test it switching it in place of Shifter Zerus, I think it should perform much better on average.
darkshire-councilman: After playing Councilman you want to play at least two minions to be able to get to a decent attack threshold, unfortunately this deck cannot guarantee this. On the other hand Councilman requires an answer and is not easy to deal with, meaning that it could benefit you by forcing hard removal out of your opponent. Overall I think the card is not good enough because you would rather Life Tap on turn three than play a 1/5 that will probably grow to just a 2/5 the following turn.
harvest-golem: Since the start of Hearthstone this minion has been a solid early body which can provide decent board presence. The deck doesn’t have any particular synergies with Harvest Golem, but it might be worth considering just for the trade potential. The main question to ask oneself when thinking about Harvest Golem is if you really want more mediocre early game in the deck.
mind-control-tech: Reno Jackson decks very often run this card as it can provide huge swing turns whilst answering large boards. Mind Control Tech is basically a removal for wide boards. The main problem with playing it in the current state of the metagame is that since dr-boom is gone, wide boards with 4 or more minions are rarer. On the other hand Mindcontrol Tech being rarer means players will play around it less often, making the card potentially more valuable. It has to be emphasised though that most of the time around the midgame you will want to be proactive on board making Mindcontrol Tech hard to pull off consistently. On the other hand the fact that Shaman is so popular right now does make the card an attractive proposition as Shaman tends to play with wide boards.
blood-knight + Divine Shields: Alongside Blood Knight you could play any combination of: argent-squire, scarlet-crusader, silent-knight or argent-commander to make the card better. The fact you already run Argent Horserider in the deck gives you a reason to consider this as a tech choice. Additionally, all the Divine Shield minions trade decently early game, usually having the possibility to go at least one for one (this is usually true except against Mage). The most popular class, Shaman, does play Argent Squire, meaning that Blood Knight could naturally hit enemy minions without requiring prior set up on board. Remember that already hitting one Divine Shield is enough to gain value form the card, a 6/6 for three is pretty awesome. Overall I think it would be interesting to test out this package and it is the next thing on my to-do list.
senjin-shieldmasta: When you compare it to Defender of Argus you have one less stat point and you cannot distribute the stat points immediately for trades, on the other hand you are guaranteed to be able to play a Taunt. The health total means that most of the times your opponent will not be able to deal with it cleanly, the attack stat means it should be able to trade into lower drops. Overall, a decent defensive option one could switch in, bear in mind you already have pretty decent turn four plays.
cyclopian-horror: You play Cyclopian Horror for the same reason you would play Sen’jin Shieldmasta. As of now I would probably prefer Shieldmasta, but if you want an additional taunt Cyclopian Horror is not a bad card to consider.
spellbreaker: Running this card could be ok if there is something in particular in the meta you wish to silence, but with Naxxramas and Goblin Vs Gnomes gone from standard most of the Deathrattles which are worth silencing are also gone. If Control Paladin becomes a prevalent deck in the meta I would consider putting Spellbreaker in the deck as Paladins run many targets worth silencing, including: sylvanas-windrunner, tirion-fordring and cairne-bloodhoof. The card overall is not bad but needs a specific metagame in order to be played.
big-game-hunter: With zero mana 8/8’s (arcane-giant) and four mana 7/7’s (flamewreathed-faceless) in the metagame the card has plenty of targets to hit. The fact you run Abusive Sergeant in the deck also means that you can buff a five attack minion in order to remove it with Big Game Hunter, it will not happen too often but is certainly worth considering. Probably would take out Stampeding Kodo for it to see if the card gets more value than Kodo on average.
azure-drake: I already talked about why Spell Power is valuable in this deck, it helps you hit better damage thresholds with removal. The difference between Azure Drake and Thalnos, is that Azure Drake is harder to combo with the spells but provides a better body on curve. My feeling is that Thalnos is probably better but I am unsure as I didn’t test any of them yet.
W/L 24/26 (48% in top 1000 Legend)
I will say that I think I could have achieved a higher win-rate if I recorded the fifty games after the first fifty games. I noticed I made quite a few misplays in the first 20 games or so, adjusting to a deck is always a long process. This is not an easy deck to play. Consider that I dropped to 1100 Legend with it and the proceeded to finish in the top 400.
Representative Data (no data about match-ups which I faced less than 4 times):
Malygos Druid 4/5
Malygos Druids can cycle through their deck insanely fast, very often I saw that they drew five or more card than me, even given the fact I had used Life Tap throughout the game. The main problem of this match-up is that Druid can defeat you in multiple ways. It can one shot you with malygos, apply constant pressure with two minions at a time or just have a stupidly good yoggsaron-hopes-end to close out the game. Renolock can deal with large boards and small minion but a lot of large bodies are hard to remove, there is only one Siphon Soul in the deck. Overall I think the match-up is worse than the statistics show, I would expect the win-rate to drop as the sample size gets bigger.
Midrange Hunter 5/4
The match-up is supposedly bad but I think running Argent Horserider really helps, the card trades exceptionally well into Hunter’s early drops. I think that the main reason the win-rate was positive is that once again the sample size is small and doesn’t reflect reality, I am pretty sure Renolock should have around 30-40% win-rate in this match-up. The main problem is that even after a Reno heal, Hunter can apply substantial pressure; their hero power can put you on a really tight timer. Overall, in order to win you need to be ahead of Hunter on board by turn 5, if not the savannah highmane into call-of-the-wild curve will destroy you.
Midrange Shaman 5/4
On paper the match-up should be fine but it is actually a pretty hard match-up. The new Midrange Shaman deck doesn’t need an awfully wide board in order to apply pressure, just three minions at a time and a weapon can already threaten your life total. This is problematic to deal with because if you are not on board you will have to use board clear after board clear, and eventually you will run of clears. thunderbluff-valiant alone can really ruin your day, it is hard to deal with and it will force you to use hard clears on it. There is a reason Shaman is the strongest class right now, and being able to just go head to head against them with about 50% win-rate should be considered ok.
Control Warrior 5/3
Good match-up against the Fatigue variant and decent one against the C’Thun one. In both cases it is important to summon an Infernal on the same turn as you play Jaraxxus, this is to avoid the Warrior being able to develop their own big threats. If you manage to stabilise with Jaraxxus there is no way that the Warrior will manage to fatigue you, you will just apply too much constant pressure with the 6/6’s. Consider that in this match-up if you play Jaraxxus it is better to not attack with the weapon to make sure they overdraw with Harrison and get deeper into fatigue. Apart from Jaraxxus, Life Tap like a madman and deal with their threats. The only popular match-up I encountered where Shifter Zerus and Ragnaros are really good.
Aggro Shaman 1/3
Four games sample size is barely enough to make any conclusions, in general this match-up is very one-dimensional. Either you get snowballed on and the Shaman will apply too much pressure for you to do anything, or you will just have decent answers and the Shaman will not be able to play. doomhammer burst is very dangerous so don’t be too greedy with Reno Jackson as this could sign your end. Apart from this, don’t be conservative with clears as Aggro Shaman tends to run out of steam pretty fast, Hellfire on three minions is already good value.
General Match-up Thoughts
The first deck archetype I want to talk about is combo decks. The race is obviously on, you try to get to Leeroy as fast as possible and the opponent to their combo. The problem is that Reno Combolocks tend to be slower than any other decks in cycling through their deck. You don’t really run a lot of draw outside Life Tap, the game plan is usually to control the board. This means that most of the times you will lose and get KO’d before you can KO the opponent.
When playing Reno decks aggressive decks tend to be a coin flip. Either you draw Reno and manage to stabilize with it, or you just lose to the immense pressure of the aggressive deck. The deck has a slightly better early game than most Control Warlock decks, meaning that you can sometimes be ahead on board early on. Overall, aggressive match-ups aren’t very exciting as they are usually one-dimensional, you defend they attack. One thing to remember, and this doesn’t apply only against aggressive decks, is to not be too greedy with Reno, sometimes a 14 health Reno can win you the game on the spot.
Jaraxxus is all the late game you need to be favoured against control decks. Additionally, against decks like Priest, you can always just set-up Leeroy combo and one hit kill them from there. Overall, Renolock is the control killer par excellence, you can draw a lot of cards and just grind out the resources form your opponent. I will repeat it again because it is really important, always keep the coin for Jaraxxus or try to make sure you can discount him and play the card alongside his hero power to not risk losing too much tempo. Additionally attacking with the weapon is usually meaningless if you are expecting a Harrison, just make the enemy deck out faster whilst he tries to deal with your threats.
And finally we get to midrange decks, the good old curve decks. Against these type of decks you can get overwhelmed as they tend to play one threat after another and this deck has a hard time dealing with singular minions. Obviously generalizing this type of deck is hard, the Midrange Warrior match-up will be much better than the Midrange Hunter. The former is favourable the latter is not. In these match-ups all you can do is try to line-up your play to be favourable against their power plays.
In general if you have Reno in hand you will be favoured in most match-ups, whilst if you don’t Tapping will slowly lead you to your death. The most interesting games are for sure against control decks, as there are a lot of plays you have to think about in order to maximize your chances of winning.
This is just another alternative to a Renolock list, nothing metabreaking. The deck is quite difficult to play optimally and does for an interesting experience when playing the game. Overall it was refreshing to semi-successfully be able to play a deck which wasn’t Shaman, Warrior or Hunter on ladder, even if with a slightly sub-par win-rate. All I can suggest is to try tinker with the list and see if any of the suggestions I wrote about actually make sense, obviously report back once you have some data!
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