Weekly Legends: Reno…Hunter?

If there’s one thing I know a lot about, it’s sports. If there’s two things I know a lot about, it’s sports and decks. This is my third soiree with the treasure-hunting legend, but it is still new territory for me. While I have played Reno in Shaman, Warlock and Paladin, I have yet to […]

Introduction

If there’s one thing I know a lot about, it’s sports. If there’s two things I know a lot about, it’s sports and Reno Jackson decks. This is my third soiree with the treasure-hunting legend, but it is still new territory for me. While I have played Reno in Shaman, Warlock and Paladin, I have yet to see him played in Hunter. There are many reasons for this. One main reason is that Hunter is a class that usually depends on a lot of two-ofs for consistency and reliable damage potential. Another is that most Hunter decks are about being proactive and very aggressive, which Reno does not really fit into. That is why I chose this deck to show you guys. Because, while Reno is a slower card that enables the game to go on for a very long time, this legend deck, originally built by crimzig, uses him as a tool rather than a win condition.

At first glance this list may look a lot like some sort of Control Hunter. It is important to know that this deck is by no means a Control Hunter. I feel that build is still far out of reach, and something that Rexxar just doesn’t have the tools for yet. Rather, this is a much more spread out version of Midrange Hunter that sacrifices a bit of consistency in order to play to Reno’s ability. Even with that sacrifice, most of Hunter’s cards are so inherently powerful that you have a ton of tools at your disposal. This deck pilots like a strange hybrid version of the classic midrange, where you play to your hand more to your deck. That is to say, since you can’t reliably know what you’re going to draw, you don’t want to focus on your curve here as much as you want to focus on what you have and the best ways to play to the board.

Key Cards

A very important thing to note about Reno decks is that every card counts. As you only run one-ofs you will only get to play something once. Always remember that because, while you may want to use a removal spell early on, that may not be right since you will never get another chance to use that card.

Hunter’s Mark

This deck is pretty light on removal. Check that, extremely light on removal. While there are a couple damage based spells here and there, you always want to have some sort of fail safe built into a deck like this. No-nonsense removal like Shield Slam, Execute or Shadow Word: Death are all great because they can be used in a ton of different situations. It doesn’t matter if you are ahead on board, behind on board or just struggling to stay alive, they can bring you back or cement a win. Hunter’s Mark falls into that exact same category. Though you mostly want a minion on board to make this card work, having a targeted Equality is absolutely fantastic.

The versatility of Hunter’s Mark is the reason it is in the list. A lot of the time you will actually use this card on smaller midrange minions (like 5/5’s) to keep ahead on tempo or lock down the board. However, you also need to remember this is your only hard removal spell. Almost every single deck in the game right now, from aggro to control, runs some sort of giant minion. You want to identify what that is for each deck and then try to save the mark for it. This does not mean you need to save the mark for those giant minions at all costs (getting board control is usually more important since you can trade later on) but if you have no other removal in your hand try and wait.

Powershot

One of the weaknesses of this list is how much it struggles against aggro. I am not saying that it loses instantly (and Reno is a great way to climb back into games) but it is definitely not an easy ride. When making a Reno deck it is important to make sure that every card counts. Everything must have a reason for being in the deck, and every slot must have a set purpose. Powershot is here for the swarms. This card acts like a (mostly) one-sided Consecration that comes down a turn earlier. Almost all of the popular aggro decks these days are swarm/board control style lists that run a lot of small minions. Aggro Druid, Paladin, Zoo and Hunter all depend on those swarms to give them early board control, which will allow them to go face as much as possible and build to their finishing damage. If that early push ever gets stopped, then you should have no problem taking over the game. Explosive Trap and Unleash the Hounds both do a great job of clearing out small things, but having one more option at your disposal can keep your health high, which will make up for your lack of healing later on.

Houndmaster

Going with the theme from above, you want ways to battle aggressive or early curve decks. Houndmaster is perfect for that because of its inherent versatility. This card is always going to be strong if you can get a trigger off of it, no matter what the board state or situation. That being said, you don’t run too many beasts in this list, and the ones you do run are (obviously) going to be one-ofs. As such, you should try to get a trigger off of tge four drop whenever the opportunity presents itself, even if that means buffing a freshly-played Ironbeak Owl. Not the most exciting turn in the world, but once the opportunity passes you by, you may just have to play it as a 4/3 that does nothing to impact the board.

The other reason I wanted to bring up Houndmaster was to cover the important role it plays against a lot of the meta. A wide number of decks you are going to face are going to be aggressive or midrange with an aggressive curve. This deck has a very small amount of healing even with Reno Jackson, and you usually stay alive by controlling the board. However, having access to a taunt or two never hurts. Sludge Belcher is one of your taunts, and Houndmaster is the other. Master is even a little better because it can buff a lot of strong early game beasts that have abilities of their own while also forcing your opponent to trigger Snake Trap. While facing off against aggro (or when you are being rushed down) try and play this card with a beast in the same turn. That way you are guaranteed to put something in their way. This may not always stop them for long, but it could buy you an extra turn to draw Reno or one of your other answers.

Ball of Spiders

The original version of this deck ran Ysera. While the dreamer is very strong, she accentuated a huge problem I had with the list: it has very little threats. While you do play the midrange game quite well with the usual Savannah Highmane/Dr. Boom package, the lack of duplicates makes it so you are often going to try to end games with your hero power or damage instead of card advantage. That means  your opponent can usually save their removal for the late game and easily answer your big threats no matter what they are. That made you insanely weak to the grindy games where your opponent could drown you in card advantage. I wanted some of that card advantage for myself, and I didn’t like that most of the time I would play something big and it would instantly get killed. Ball of Spiders fixed that by giving you a form of card draw that allows you to go longer in the game.

Though there are quite a few low-impact beast cards in the game, there are also a lot of big threats and useful abilities. Even if you roll low on the first spider, getting something like a Haunted Creeper or Bloodfen Raptor, you have two more tries to get something a little more useful. When playing a Hunter, almost every one of your minions that has more than three attack is a threat. If that minion is also a beast, it then becomes even more dangerous. This card may cost six mana, but it gives you six beasts. Three of the original spiders, and then the three random beasts you get from the deathrattles. It may not always seem that scary, but if you can get this card down when you are ahead on board it puts a lot of pressure on your opponent. Nobody likes it when Hunter has threats, and it is especially frustrating for your opponent when you can put minions down that just give you bigger, stronger minions when they die.

Dr. Boom

Everyone who has played Hearthstone over the last year knows and understands the power of the doctor. Even so, I feel like I needed to bring him up because he accentuates a very interesting point about this deck, and that is your lack of late game. Whereas classic Midrange Hunter has two Savannah Highmanes and a slew of five drops, you only have one lion and Dr. Boom. That means you really want to get some good use out of your midrange cards because you can’t just rest on your finishers carrying you. Never play to your late game. Rather, just try and see how much board control you can get for the first turns of the game and never let that go.

Remember, just because I chose to cut out the big finisher doesn’t mean you have to. One of the best thing about Reno Jackson decks is that there is so much room for innovation. While I do think there are many cards you cannot cut, such as the removal or stock Hunter cards, there are definitely some flex spots. A lot of playing a deck like this is choosing the right tech cards, and that will get easier the more you play. Maybe you do want some more big finishers or maybe you want more taunts and healing. Have some fun with this list. When you have this many on-ofs you can really mix and match as you choose. Try different finishers, spells and threats and see what works best for your current rank.

Matchups

How to play against the five decks I see the most on ladder.

Face Hunter

Rexxar has almost completely switched from the once-popular hybrid/midrange version to pure face. There are many reasons why that is, but the most important thing is that you have to be ready for it. As stated, this is easily going to be your hardest matchup due to a lack of healing and taunts. You are a deck that depends on your early board to stay alive or to stall long enough until you can draw Reno. That works against a lot of decks because your removal and trades almost always work in your favor. However, that plan crumbles against Face Hunter due to their large amount of charge minions. Since you cannot react to them right away, things like Arcane Golem, Wolfrider and Argent Horserider will easily chip away at your health. Get your taunts up whenever you can.

This matchup comes down to a very simple idea: draw Reno and win. There are ways to win if you don’t, but it makes the game a whole lot harder. Basically, you want to spend a lot of your time stalling, and you should always keep him if he’s in your opening. That being said, don’t be afraid to get aggressive here either. As convoluted as it may seem, this is still Hunter vs. Hunter, and you can still bring the pressure if you need. If you manage to wrest early board control, or if you have a matched board and don’t have Reno, don’t be afraid to start going face. Face Hunter is not a deck that does well when they are losing in health, and though it will almost never happen, if you are ahead in life don’t shy away from a race. You can also bait them into a race and then drop Reno on them, which instantly seals a win.

Deathrattle Rogue

Be careful what you wish for. My dreams have finally come to fruition and Deathrattle Rogue is an extremely popular deck that is taking the ladder by storm. However, now that everyone is aware of its power level, it is incredibly annoying to play against. Though it is rarely talked about, Hunter is not a deck that does all that well when facing deathrattle. Most of your removal is damage based, which means there is no way to get around their deathrattle triggers. That is a large hurdle to overcome, and one you have to constantly be aware of. Taking board is the way you stay alive, and it is also one of the trickiest things to do against Rogue. Just like against Face Hunter, always look for ways to get in face damage and try to pressure them as much as you can.

Your two best tools in this matchup are Ironbeak Owl and Freezing Trap. The reason is that both of those cards are great tools at fighting back against annoying deathrattle cards. If you have trap up, try and clear every small minion they put down (Boom Bots) to make sure they can’t get value out of Sylvanas Windrunner or their other hard-to-deal-with finishers. In addition, never hesitate to use Ironbeak Owl. The bird can hit everything from Nerubian Egg to Sylvanas Windrunner to Loot Hoarder and is a great silver bullet that can also shut down Unearthed Raptor.

Secret Paladin

Still alive and kicking (but barely) Secret Paladin is a deck that is struggling to keep its hold on the meta. The rules here are the same as they have always been. You want to fight Uther by playing around Secrets and clearing their board by turn six. Be ready for all of their threats, and know what they can play turn by turn. You are going to play this matchup in a very reactive, midrange style way. That means you are simply going to clear as much as possible and then, as soon as you get board, go face hard and fast. Perhaps here more than any other match is where you need to know what each card is for. Powershot should be used on Muster for Battle, Hunter’s Mark should be for Mysterious Challenger or Dr. Boom, and want to save Ironbeak Owl[card] for [card]Tirion Fordring. When attacking into secrets always check for Noble Sacrifice first, and make sure you have an answer for Avenge should it be triggered.

Control Warrior

Control Warrior, much like Hunter, is one of the few constants in Hearthstone. It is an extremely solid deck that has enough tools to fight well against anything they come across in ladder. This is a strange matchup because you are not going to be able the burst them down without having a very good start. That means you need to be ready to go long. Not the place you always want to be against Warrior, but if you can answer their burst as well as their finishers you can actually make it through. Since you want to last as long as possible, always be careful about their removal and try to bait out Execute and Shield Slam on your lesser minions. In that same vein, always play around Brawl and never try to overextend, especially as you get into the later stages.

As odd as it may seem, your best card here is Ball of Spiders. If you are planning on going long, then card advantage becomes the most important resource over both damage and health. This is your only real source of card advantage, and you want to leverage it as much as possible. Drawing three beasts is a great way to up the pressure and also make your opponent play more carefully since many beasts do a lot of damage. As for the spiders themselves, they are a great way to bait out Brawl as well as force them to use the second half of a Death’s Bite. In terms of fatigue this card also draws you three cards for without taking anything from your deck. Play this whenever you get the chance and always save Ironbeak Owl for Sylvanas Windrunner.

Zoo

There are many versions of Zoo running around these days, but the most popular are the swarm style decks that were first created by Reynad. That is what you should be ready for when facing Gul’dan because it is the most played version of Warlock. You have three ways to deal with the swarms and you want to get the most out of all of them. Unleash the Hounds, Explosive Trap and Power Shot all work wonders at clearing full boards, and you should always try to set up a board where they will get the most value. Not only will they mitigate damage, they will also enable you to get board control, which will pretty much end the game since Zoo does not operate well with no minions on board.

Do not forget that Zoo runs a lot of big minions ranging from Dr. Boom to Sea Giant. They are scary, but you can easily deal with them with most of your removal or with trades if you have the board. That being said, that is only going to work if you are ready to fight them. Zoo is still an aggro deck, which means taking even one hit from a large minion can usually spell game over if you relax too much. Reno Jackson is a great tool here and enables you to race them before absolutely blowing them out and going straight back to thirty life. Just like when facing Hunter, he pretty much puts you out of reach if you get into trouble. Also keep him in your mulligans against Warlock if you also have a good early curve.

Mulligan Guide

As this is a Reno deck you need to be careful with your mulligans. Anything you see you are only going to see once, and sending it back into your deck is a risky proposition. As such, if there is something that you really want (such as Explosive Trap against Paladin) but don’t want to keep it, you should just keep it since you may never see it again. That is the golden rule of this deck. Play to your curve here more than anything else. I say that in every Reno writeup, but it absolutely true. While you may have a certain card that you want in your mind, chances are you aren’t going to see it. If you have something like a King’s Elekk or a Jeweled Scarab early on you should always keep it just because it slots into your early game.

It is hard to truly explain every mulligan choice in this deck, because a lot the time your mulligans will not make complete sense. For example, I would never keep an Ironbeak Owl against a Paladin, but if it was my only low cost card I would highly consider it. There are some silver bullets against certain decks (like you should always keep the owl against decks that run Mad Scientist or Powershot against aggro) but you mainly just want to start out early and then build off of it. Always keep Mad Scientist to make sure Reno triggers, and always keep Reno when going up against hyper aggressive builds since he can win the game on his own.

Conclusion

By now it should probably be apparent that Reno Jackson is one of my favorite cards in the game. I think he is a tool that Control decks needed, and I think he is super well designed. I love seeing him in different classes and I hope he sticks around for some time. As LOE is now wrapped up I cannot wait to see what other cool or interesting decks come out of the wood work (I know I will be trying some of my own). Until then, may you always heal, and never stop healing.