Freeze Mage is one of the strongest decks on the ladder. Not only is it very good against most of the top-tier lists in the game, but it also has a surprising amount of consistency. As a result, if you want to rank up with it you need to know the best way to combat the other powerhouses of the metagame. One of those is Renolock, an extremely powerful control deck that makes use of high-power cards and an incredible hero power to win the game through a combination of attrition and big minions. In this guide we will look at the matchup between these two decks to understand how Freeze Mage can come out on top.
While you have to run the core spells while playing Freeze Mage, it is important to understand that there are many different routes you can go. You can run a heal-heavy version, a burn-heavy version or one that has a little more draw. On top of that, you are also able to tweak your finisher in different ways. Some decks like to run the classic [card]Alexstrasza[/card]/[card]Archmage Antonidas[/card] build, while others eschew the legendary wizard and others run [card]Malygos[/card]. Whatever you choose, just make sure it is the archetype you best understand. Playing a deck you know is always one of the best ways to
Anytime you are playing Warlock you need to assume your opponent is going to be Zoo. This is because, while you can re-adjust your hand and gameplan for the slower Renolock, you will get crushed keeping a slow hand against aggro. As such, whenever you see Gul’dan across the board from you, you need to do your best
Cards to Keep
[card]Acolyte of Pain[/card]
[card]Frost Nova[/card] can be kept with card draw or alongside [card]Doomsayer[/card].
[card]Cone of Cold[/card], if you run it, follows the same rules as[card]Frost Nova[/card].
[card]Fireball[/card] can be kept if you have early minions but no other removal.
[toc]How to Win[/toc]
The most important part of playing against Renolock is identifying that they are in fact Renolock. You should be able to do this on turn one as soon as you see their opening play. While [card]Dark Peddler[/card] is not a give away, just about any other early aggressive minion shows your opponent is going to be Zoo. [card]Flame Imp[/card], [card]Voidwalker[/card], [card]Knife Juggler[/card], [card]Haunted Creeper[/card] and [card]Nerubian Egg[/card] all point to Zoo while [card]Zombie Chow[/card] is Renolock. Also note, most of the time if your opponent has the coin and does nothing on turn one they are usually Renolock as well.
Once you have identified your opponent’s deck, you want to draw as many cards as possible. Renolock is a deck that can tear through all of their cards with blinding speed. That means they are going to get their healing, which is the only way they can beat you. You want to try to match that pace with everything you have. That means you just need to play your cards and play your early minions with reckless abandon. There is no reason to be careful for a good part of this game because you are never going to be under immediate threat of dying. Renolock has very little burst, and even if they do build a board you can just freeze it down.
The final part of playing Renolock is finding a window to finish them off. [card]Antique Healbot[/card] and [card]Reno Jackson[/card] can both ruin your day if you aren’t careful, but you can also beat them if you plan ahead. Through [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card] and your usual burn, you have a ton of damage at your disposal. While you cannot kill someone from thirty in one go (without the help of [card]Emperor Thaurissan[/card] that is) you can over two turns. If you have already seen their healing (or if you have forced them into using their healing) you shouldn’t be afraid to throw burn at their face and plan to finish them off the following turn.
[toc]Early Game Strategy[/toc]
The opening turns of the game are going to be pretty uneventful here. Either you have some minions and they remove them, they have some minions and you remove them, or both of your just draw and Lifetap respectively. Despite the names and labels, this game is a Control vs. Control match early on. While the board is not irrelevant, there is no reason to sacrifice your draws or minion drops to control it. Freeze Mage has some of the best mid-game catch-up options, and those will pull you through if things get ugly. You can be especially loose if you have an [card]Ice Block[/card] up as well.
That being said, there is nothing wrong with burning an early [card]Frostbolt[/card] to kill off a [card]Zombie Chow[/card], [card]Dark Peddler[/card] or the like. While this is not as important in terms of damage, it can be relevant in terms of protecting your early minions like [card]Loot Hoarder[/card] or [card]Mad Scientist[/card]. Yes, you want those minions to die, but they can act as removal or damage if they stick to the board.
Don’t be afraid of playing [card]Acolyte of Pain[/card] early. While Renolock can remove it in one go with things like [card]Darkbomb[/card], they also have a lot of small minions that you can use to draw cards. In some games they will even use their [card]Ironbeak Owl[/card] on the three drop, which opens up space for your [card]Doomsayer[/card] later on.
As much as the early turns are going to be spent overlooking the board, these turns are going to be dictated by the board. If they have a lot of minions or are starting to really push damage through then you need to use your freeze to buy time. However, if you have secrets up and they are just tapping or only have one minion down, keep digging for your finishers.
[card]Doomsayer[/card] is a very important card in this matchup for two reasons. One, it can buy you time in tricky situations; eating seven damage to get you to that next draw. There are many times where you just want to run this card out (especially if they have already played [card]Ironbeak Owl[/card]) to buy yourself some extra time. Two, it, as always, has a great combo with [card]Frost Nova[/card]. That play is not as relevant as a board clear, but moreso as a tempo play. Sometimes you want to use it just to get board control for your following turn.
The one card you need to keep in mind here is [card]Loatheb[/card]. The fungus-loving legend is a Renolock staple, and they are going to have it at one point or another. Because of this, you do need to be a little bit careful if your life total dips too low. You don’t have to let the hypothetical-Loatheb dictate the way you play, but you should be aware that is exists.
Remember that [card]Emperor Thaurissan[/card] is a spell. That is to say, he is never going to live for more than a turn and you shouldn’t get caught up on trying to keep him around. Renolock will almost always be able to remove one of your minions, meaning that you just want to get use out of them when they come down. Of course, you want to try to get him down onto an empty board if possible, but you don’t want to hold him back here in hopes of playing him later. Always play to your combo.
[toc]Late Game Strategy[/toc]
The final turns in this match are going to be a game of chess mixed with some bluffing. That is to say, you are trying to make the most of your burn while also making sure you have enough damage left should they heal. Renolock is going to heal at some point, and a big part of winning this matchup is getting them to do it exactly when you want them to. You do that by throwing just enough burn at them to scare them. This is a tricky thing to do, but sometimes it is worth it to waste a [card]Fireball[/card] just so they use that healbot just a little bit too early.
[card]Alexstrasza[/card] is usually going to be negated by [card]Reno Jackson[/card]. While that is an unfortunate rule of this matchup, it gets a lot easier once Reno has been played. She is one of the best ways to force your opponent’s hand. If you have the opportunity, play her down. Though she is going to die almost all of the time, they are going to be forced to use valuable healing without you having to commit any burn.
Another thing to be aware of is that, while Renolock has very little burst, they do have some. [card]Power Overwhelming[/card] is four out of nowhere, while [card]Darkbomb[/card], [card]Hellfire[/card] and [card]Lord Jaraxxus[/card] all do three. Know this, and keep all of those cards in mind when thinking about how to keep up an [card]Ice Block[/card], or whether or not to freeze the board.
Watch out for Lord Jaraxxus[/card]. A lot of people going up against Renolock will only keep their mind on the legendary explorer and things like [card]Antique Healbot[/card]. However, Jaxx will pull them back from the brink, especially if you have used most of your burn. Don’t get caught off guard by the demon and see him as the heal spell that he is.