Weekly Legends: Reno Hunter

This week on Weekly Legends we look at a very interesting archetype that has made an appearance in my series one or two times throughout the past: Reno Hunter. While it is strange that those two names go together in the same sentence, they have been taken to legend more than once in Hearthstone’s past. […]

Introduction

This week on Weekly Legends we look at a very interesting archetype that has made an appearance in my series one or two times throughout the past: Reno Hunter. While it is strange that those two names go together in the same sentence, they have been taken to legend more than once in Hearthstone’s past. However, I have not seen the crazy concoction actually make it to the orange diamond since Standard hit. That changes now with a new list that comes from Ruskeydoo, showing that innovation in Hearthstone will never truly be dead.

This list, like any Reno list, is extremely interesting because every card is a tech card. While the whole deck is filled with strong value cards, they are all chosen for specific purposes. Though Hunter is a strange choice for Reno Jackson, there is so much removal in the class that it actually makes the deck feel a whole lot more focused than other lists. Most Reno decks are scattered, but this has a very central theme to kill all of your opponent’s list. There are very few dead spots in this list, and that is because each fills a specific hole, which then strengthens everything overall. Taking Reno out of the usual shell is fun and a great way to understand deck building. Today we dive deeper into why that is.

Key Cards

Hunter’s Mark

This list runs a lot of soft removal, but it runs very few hard removal options. What I mean by that is, you do not have too many ways to kill a minion no matter what. Most of your choices in this list are going to have some sort of damage cap, which limits what they can do. Hunter’s Mark (and also Deadly Shot) does not have that problem. For that reason, you need to be very careful when using this card. Just about every deck in Hearthstone has some type of big minion and you always need to evaluate if the target you are going to use this card on is worth it. For instance, there is no reason to use this to clear a 5/5 to only die to Ragnaros the Firelord a few turns later. However, if you were going to die from the 5/5, then you have to pull the trigger.

If you have any other means of clearing when using Hunter’s Mark you should take that route. You have a ton of ways to kill things in your deck and you need to be very meticulous about how and when they can clear. Using a Hunter’s Mark on the first big threat you see may be your first instinct, but always evaluate your hand and what you have on board to really make sure it is your only (or your best option). Sometimes you are just going to want to stay ahead in tempo or keep cards in your hand, and Hunter’s Mark works for that. But always know that you want to save it if you are facing a situation where a bigger threat is coming.

Explorer’s Hat

Explorer’s Hat is a very interesting card that makes its way into just about every Reno Hunter list that has ever been made. The reason is that, in long games this card is simply pure value. A +1/+1 bonus is not great in a vacuum, but if it can be repeated over and over again it can really makes some waves. Your goal with this deck is to just outlast everyone you play. Sometimes that is going to be getting to Yogg, sometimes that is going to be removing every threat until they run out of damage, and sometimes it is going to be controlling the board and slowly wearing down their health. The hat helps with all of those lines of play because it makes any minion you play just that much stronger. An extra buff may not seem to matter but it has a ton of applications. It really helps your trades and enables you a lot of flexibility during the later game when you and your opponent are both topdecking. This card has no set back due to its ability, so always play it as early when you have the mana to spare.

Dreadscale

Unlike traditional Hunter lists, Dreadscale works very well here because you simply don’t run that many small minions. Doing one damage to an entire board is a very strong ability that is usually resigned to Warrior. Being able to clear out a lot of small swarm decks like Hunter or Zoo while also getting to make your removal stronger is invaluable. Your goal with this card is to play it in the early to early-mid game much like a Ravaging Ghoul. This is a great way to kill off Forbidden Ritual, stop Violet Teacher and clean up boards of hounds or roots. Even if you don’t get the worm until later on, it can also be combined with things like Explosive Shot and Hunter’s Mark to finish off stronger minions as well.

Notice that, like so many of your other cards (especially Wild Pyromancer) that Dreadscale is almost never going to live for more than one turn. A 4/2 body is inherently weak, and every good deck in the game has a way to do that two damage (or they will find a way to do that two damage). As a result, you need to make sure you are making Dreadscale’s ability count as much as possibly. Using it as a one-for-one against a huge minion is a good use of the three drop, but you never want to take that route if there are more dangerous boards coming up. For instance, using it to clear a couple of Zoo minions only to be hit by a Forbidden Ritual during the next turns. Always evaluate your removal plays in this deck and always try and figure out the best situation to use this card in. Just because you can clear doesn’t always mean you should.

Elise Starseeker

Yes, this deck runs Elise Starseeker. Yes, it is the way you are going to win control games. While the four drop’s use is very self-explanatory, but it is a key card because you need to know your strategy when facing slower decks. This deck can usually outlast aggro and take over the game with one solid minion. However, when fighting control you need to be able to take a slightly different route. Your goal is to stay alive as long as you can just to make sure you can live until the Golden Monkey comes down. Of course, if you can attack your opponent and pressure them you should, but the main goal revolves around turning your entire deck into legendaries.

Also, it does good to remember that you simply do not always play the Golden Monkey because you can. Putting down the 6/6 is very important to winning against Control, but you want to make sure that you are not going to get suddenly blown out by something like N’zoth, the Corruptor or Sylvanas Windrunner as soon as you play the idol. It is important to evaluate your opponent’s cards and understand what they have played throughout the game. This will help you better set up your finisher. Once you play the 6/6 you are no longer going to have access to removal either. That is also important because you need to know when you have to save your Deadly Shot or the like for a key minion, and when you just need to push and get as many big threats down as you can.

Yogg Saron

No janky Reno list would be complete with Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End. The 10 mana Old God has, despite my protests and anger, more than proven to be one of the strongest late-game cards around. This card is your rebound against aggro and one of the ways to win games you have no business winning. Unfortunately, Yogg is going to be good much more often than it isn’t. Sometimes it will lose the game, but the upside (winning when you have no options) is so high that you want to run it (especially in a tech deck like this). Hunter has a lot of spot removal but you have very little AOE at your disposal. This card serves as your AOE and you should always use it if your opponent has overtaken the board and you have no way to comeback. Don’t always save it for the last resort, sometimes you can pull the trigger earlier.

Yogg is interesting in this deck because, no matter what happens, the 7/5 is almost always going to draw you cards. That is key in a Reno deck because the more draw you have, the higher chance you have of drawing specific answers or Reno Jackson. There are many games where you are going to need get that healing and you have no way of digging through your deck. For those times, you need to spin the wheel of Yogg and do what you can to get through your cards. In this list I would say there are two distinct times where you want to play the Old God. Either when you are far behind on board or when your hand is empty and you need to get some draw. It is not always going to work out, but being passive is usually the worst option. Especially in today’s meta.

Matchups

Five decks I see most when playing ladder.

Control Warrior

At this point, I am not sure which Warrior deck is the most popular, but I’m going to cover the top two. Control Warrior comes in two forms, Classic and C’thun. Each of these are powerful and your plan is going to be the same against both. As covered, your plan simply revolved around getting to Elise Starseeker. Though there is a chance you can wear down Warrior, you do not have that many threats at your disposal. Furthermore, you also have a lot of dead cards that do not do much against Garrosh. Just do everything you can to limit how much damage you take and slowly remove everything they play. Your whole game plan is to simply stay alive for as long as possible.

Though it may not be easy, your want to try and keep minions on the board and use them to pressure your opponent. Since the Golden Monkey is how you are going to win, you want your opponent to have as little resources as possible when you drop the 6/6. Bait out everything you can, but especially focus on Brawl, Shield Slam and Execute. Those are the three cards Warrior is going to use to comeback once you start chaining threats. If you can make Warrior feel that they are pressured you can force their hand. This will just make it easier to put a cap on the game when the time comes.

Tempo Dragon Warrior

The second Warrior in the meta, Tempo Dragon is a fast list that can really bring the pain in a hurry. This is a game where you are going to play the role of control. Your whole goal here is to stay alive and simply outlast your opponent. Like Tempo Mage, Dragon Warrior only has so many ways to do damage. If you can run them down and remove their minions turn after turn you should be able to get to a point where they are topdecking nothing. Just know how important it is to save your hard removal for their lategame. Even single Dragon Warrior runs some combination of Ragnaros the Firelord, Malkorok and Grommash Hellscream. You need to have a way to take down all of those cards because you will most likely lose if you don’t.

The most important part of this game is preserving your health as best you can. Not only will this help turn off Drakonid Crusher but it frustrate your opponent to no end. They are a deck that has a lot of burst, but they typically only want to use that burst when they can set up one or two turn lethal. If you just keep removing minions your opponent is eventually going to do something like Grommash Hellscream to clear or just run out their Kor’kron Elite. From there you can remove those cards at your leisure. That is less burst you have to worry about, making Reno Jackson that much stronger. If you ever use the explorer after your opponent has used most of their burst the game is all-but over. Also know they have very limited removal, so do not be afraid to run out minions throughout the game.

Aggro Shaman

Fast as ever, Aggro Shaman shifts more and more towards it once was. The new popular version runs more burn, favoring things like Lava Burst and Ancestral Knowelge over more board heavy cards like Tuskarr Totem. However, all versions still pack the double trouble combo of Flamewreathed Faceless and Thing from Below. Those are the two big threats and you should not hesitate to remove them on sight. As you can imagine, this is a game where the only thing you care about removal to limit your damage and keep their pressure off of you. Remove everything they play as efficiently as you can and always try to make sure that your opponent cannot stick a big minion for more than one turn. You want to draw as many cards because you desperately need to find Reno is you want to take this one down. Try to out tempo them and do everything to get a minion to stick. Once that happens you should be in control of trades, which can really help.

Zoo

Now that its vacation is over, Zoo is back. Not as hard as it usually is, but it is a deck that you need to be aware of. Even so, this is a game that is vastly in your favor. While Zoo has a few ways to mount an attack, they do not have enough sticky minions to keep up with your killing something (or multiple somethings) each turn. Even if they do amass a lot of damage throughout the game, you have Reno Jackson, which will almost always put things away. This is one of those tricky matchups where you need to make the best of your removal in terms of tempo rather than just threats. That is to say, while you may want to save Deadly Shot for Doomguard, it is not worth taking eight plus damage from the Darkshire Councilman staring you down. Always calculate your opponent’s damage and clear based off of that.

Beyond clearing, you need to always watch your damage and count your opponent’s spells. To adapt to the new world, Zoo has become much more focused on quick burst and damage than they once were. Most lists run Doomguard or Leeroy Jenkins (sometimes both) and they also pack Power Overwhelming and Soulfire. That is not to mention the usual cards they can get from Dark Peddler and their numerous buffs. You have to be very careful here and always know when your opponent is trying to set up the kill. Also note that almost all of Zoo’s burst comes from buffs. Never let a minion live if you can afford to. Even a 1/1 can represent the extra damage they have to kill you.

Note: Try and play Reno Jackson onto an empty or semi-empty board. Zoo has a lot of ways to flood a board and using Reno against an army usually negates his ability.

Midrange Hunter

Aaand, it’s the nightmare. As usual, Midrange Hunter is public enemy number one and the hardest deck to play against. You are a list predicated on hard removal, which today’s Hunter absolutely laughs at. Not only do they pack Infested Wolf, but Savannah Highmane and Call of the Wild just crush any type of reactive playstyle (which is what your deck is). This is a game where you simply want to challenge and all their plays and try your best to run them low on cards. Once Hunter is topdecking you are mostly going to be in a good position, but before that it is easy to get overrun.

A big part of this game, like Zoo, is using Reno Jackson effectively. Hunter has a ton of burst at their disposal and you never want to be too reckless. Call of the Wild does five damage plus what they have on board, Quick Shot and Eaglehorn Bow are a solid three, and Kill Command is five. That doesn’t even count their hero power that they will be mashing all game. While you want to wait as long as possible to heal back to 30, you never want to try and be fancy to just die to a flurry of spells. To help with this, always assume your opponent can do between seven and ten damage from hand. This will help you visualize when you need to heal up and when you can push.

Mulligan Guide

Buy low, sell high. When mulliganing with a Reno deck it is important to make note of what you keep because it is rare that you are going to see cards you mulligan away early on. Unlike something like Ramp Druid, where you can get rid of Nourish and just hope to draw it on turn five, you cannot depend on a card coming back since there is only one. As a result, you need to aggressively keep your removal and early plays. Even three drops like Eaglehorn Bow and Animal Companion should always be kept to smooth out the curve. You should also keep any type of AOE, such as Dreadscale, Unleash the Hounds and Powershot. Beyond that, anything that is low in curve except for Explorer’s Hat should be kept to make sure you have something to do.

The only two exceptions to the “high, low” rule are Harrison Jones and Reno Jackson. Though Harrison is not strong enough to keep against all weapons classes, he is a must keep against Shaman. Though they can get an early push, almost all of their power comes from Doomhammer, which you need to shut down as soon as possible. Reno should always be kept against any aggressive deck and you usually want him against midrange as well. This makes him pretty much an always keep, but against slower control you should throw him back if you have a really awkward hand.

Conclusion

What a fun deck. I love many archetypes in this game but putting Reno into classes that aren’t normally control oriented is always fun. Especially when that class is Hunter, one of my all time favorites. Decks like this are cool because they are both hard to play and very rewarding to win with. I think this is a great skill-tester type build and the style that really keeps you engaged in the game. Hearthstone is always more fun when you have to think, and this really brings it. Until next week, may you be rich!