Reno Madness – Midrange Reno N’Zoth Paladin
Hello everybody, I am Matteo Ghisoni and I love Reno Jackson decks. Sorry Hunters! This article is the fourth installation of a series focusing on different Reno builds. What I will do is: build a deck, play 50+ games with it and write about the experience. The article should not be seen as a guide but as a discussion about deck-building.
The initial idea was just to try to transform the standard greedy Control N’Zoth Paladin list into a Reno version. The problem I had with this plan is that the metagame is too fast to support this type of build, you need early game if you are going to build a highlander Paladin. Having only one Equality available to stabilize really hurts your chances of clearing the board. My abysmal record in the first few games made me decide to try a different approach and go more board centric for the first 4 turns of the game. In order to do this I removed a lot of the late game Legendaries and introduced minions which can trade evenly early game. I decided Divine Shield minions were the best for the early game as these tend to go at least 1 for 1. From a purely control deck it became a more midrange deck with a top heavy curve.
Additionally I felt that all I needed from my N’Zoth was for it to bring back one very strong Deathrattle, these days Control match-ups on ladder are very rare. Usually a 2nd Tirion should be enough to close out any game against midrange and aggressive decks. You will notice Cairne is not in the list, the reason for this is that I feel the card is just too slow, but I will discuss this in more detail later on. Overall what I wanted from this list was a deck with early game tools which could transition in a very powerful late game. Reno was just a marginal part of the plan, it was just an additional stabilization tool which could come in handy.
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: Equality, Wild Pyromancer, Aldor Peacekeeper, Consecration, Truesilver Champion, Solemn Vigil, Reno Jackson, Sylvanas Windrunner, Tirion Fordring, and N’Zoth. First off, obviously if you are building a highlander deck Reno is the reason you do this, no surprise he is un-substitutable. Secondly, if you want good late game in Paladin the best way to do this is N’Zoth, the Old God provides insane value when coupled with the Deathrattles Paladin has access to. Consequentially: N’Zoth, Tirion and Sylvanas are all core to the deck.
Consecration, Wild Pyromancer and Equality are cards which combo together and give invaluable tools to clear the board, in a Control/Midrange Paladin build they are un-substitutable. Equality is so strong that probably running two of the card isn’t even wrong. Truesilver Champion and Aldor Peacekeeper also fall in this category, both cards can help you neutralize threats and can provide good value for their mana cost. Lastly, Solemn Vigil is the only card draw mechanism I want to consider core in this deck-list, this is because the deck has decent tools to clear wide boards making the card consistently draw you cards for 1 or 2 mana.
Overall these 10 cards are the ones which I think cannot change if you were to build a Reno N’Zoth Paladin list, they are just too strong to not be played.
The Rest of the Deck
Forbidden Healing: The burst Heal this card provides is nice, but after testing it I think it doesn’t quite fit the midrange plan. For this sort of deck, being proactive on board is more valuable than heal. Overall I will say that against Hunters and Aggressive Shamans it is nice to have the extra burst heal, this helps the consistency of finding one, but if you are trying to find space in the deck for a midrange threat I would strongly suggest cutting Forbidden Healing.
Argent Squire: The card is decent as it can provide some trade potential for the early game. Additionally having Blessing of Kings and Rallying Blade gives it acceptable trade potential. On the other hand 1 attack and 1 health is not very impactful, usually you want to run at least Abusive Sergeant with Argent Squire for better early trades. This though is not an option as Abusive Sergeant is useless beside the Squire synergy. I will say the mana cost of the card makes it flexible, it can always be played alongside other cards to fill your mana curve. Overall substitutable but it actually did decent on average.
Humility: The card is usually played in Heavy Control decks but I found that it is also a decent tempo tool. Additionally the card has synergy with Acolyte of Pain and Stampeding Kodo, granting you the possibility to neutralize big threats and draw multiple cards. The fact that the deck has decent drawing power means that we can afford a slot that doesn’t trade one for one. Obviously having a second Aldor Peacekeeper would be better, but after all this is a Reno deck.
Acidic Swap Ooze: I think in this metagame if you are playing a Reno Jackson deck you have to play weapon removal as 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. On the other hand the card draw can be invaluable for a midrange deck meaning that Harrison is probably worth testing. My general rule of thumb is the following: if you are facing more Shamans than Warriors go Acidic Swamp Ooze otherwise go for Harrison Jones. This is because against Shamans you want to develop other stuff whilst removing their weapon, you need to stabilize the board. On the other hand against Warriors and Hunters you usually can afford spending a turn just destroying their weapon and drawing some cards.
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 Conceal turns). Also take in consideration that against control decks you can potentially make them waste resources if you play Doomsayer when the opponent has 10 cards in hand, this will force a discard. In general it is very important to learn to play this card correctly, 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.
Loot Hoarder: I felt I needed more early game and I was undecided between Mind Control Tech and Loot Hoarder, I decided for the latter because more card draw is always welcome in a Reno deck. The fact you can get the card off N’Zoth is not worth considering too much, a 2/1 after you played N’Zoth usually doesn’t affect the game. Overall I was happy on how the card performed against classes which do not have access to ping effects, the card usually forces very awkward trades. What I will say is that I would like to test Mind Control Tech just to see how it performs in comparison.
Acolyte of Pain: Acolyte of Pain is good in Paladin because you can guarantee multiple draws off the card. In this deck, even if there are less Humility type effects when compared to the average Paladin deck, there is another tool which is really good with Acolyte: Blessing of Kings. Giving an Acolyte +4/+4 does two things, it grants multiple draws and creates a huge threat on curve. Additionally Pyromancer Shenanigans can also help to draw a few more cards, even if this doesn’t happen that often. Overall the card can be awesome and the worst case scenario, drawing one card off it, is not that bad.
Argent Horserider: When Blizzard created this card they said they wanted a Charge minion which was used to trade early game. Little did they know that Argent Horserider had a very good place in face decks since it is really hard to remove. On the other hand, provided a bit of support, it can work in midrange decks. First off it can usually trade with 2-drops meaning that a 1 for 1 is nearly always guaranteed. Secondly late game it can add a bit of chip damage to help remove big threats. Finally having divine shields for Blessing of Kings, as already mentioned, is really strong as it will nearly always guarantee a 2 for 1. Overall the card adds something you can keep in the mulligan whilst also providing some late game utility.
Rallying Blade: In most match-ups paying three mana Fiery War Axe is not the worst thing in the world, the card is busted when played for two. Additionally running a couple of Divine Shield minions means that sometimes you should be able to hit the small buff which is always nice to enable better early trades. Consider that a buff on a Divine Shield minion is much more valuable than a buff on a normal minion. Lastly having Keeper of Uldaman combo with this card means you will be guaranteed to be able to neutralize a threat turn four if you have both cards in hand. Overall Fiery War Axe is busted which makes Rallying Blade a solid inclusion for the deck.
Silent Knight: I was surprised by how strong the card is, having a guaranteed 2 damage to trade is often very valuable. Additionally the fact you have Blessing of Kings in the deck means that at times you can curve out really nicely, a Divine Shield 6/6 really punishes turn four drops. Lastly consider that Rallying Blade on a Silent Knight should guarantee that you can hit the +1/+1, this is nice as a 3/3 trades much better than a 2/2. Overall I was surprised about how well this card performed and I was glad to have decided against playing more late game cards in favour of Silent Knight.
Blessing of Kings: With the inclusion of more early game minions most of the times it is possible to have a target for Blessing of Kings on board by turn four. This is really good as +4/+4 usually enables you to trade really well. Additionally with the Whispers of the Old Gods nerfs and Silence being rarer, the buffed minions usually need to be removed the hard way. Also consider that trading a Buffed Silent Knight can be brutal, bumping a Divine Shield for a big minion can win you games by itself. Overall I was very glad to have included this card in the deck, it is useful both early and late game in order to grant you valuable trades.
Hammer of Wrath: The card is a four mana cantrip with three damage attached to it, not great. This is especially true as you only play one spell power minion, meaning that you can rarely, if ever, get more value out of it. The redeeming factor for Hammer is that, outside Equality combos, Paladin does not have access to many good spells. This means you have to try including all the removal you can and thus Hammer of Wrath makes it into the list.
Infested Tauren: I felt that, when played, I wanted my N’Zoth to be able to lockout any aggressive deck from killing me. This is the reason I included Infested Tauren in the deck. In and of itself the card isn’t great, played on turn 4 usually means you will fall behind as it is easy to trade effectively in it. Overall I would rather have Sludge Belcher, but not the worst defensive option for a N’Zoth deck.
Keeper of Uldaman: This card has decent stats with a really strong and flexible effect. Buffing a minion by making it a 3/3 can gain you a tempo advantage as well as setting up good trades. Additionally being able to lower an enemy minion to a 3/3 makes it so it is easier to remove, this is always appreciated in a deck which lacks removal. Also remember that Rallying Blade makes it so you curve turn three into turn four and guarantee being able to remove any minion played by your opponent. Overall this card is good both midgame and late game, making it an invaluable asset for the deck.
Murloc Knight: The card is a decent midrange card, considering what the deck wants to do it seems a perfect fit. Usually when you play this card it demands and answer, if not it can just snowball a game off Murloc synergy. Additionally, even if considering the mana you payed using your Hero Power once will barely break even, if you Hero Power twice you are already positive on the mana spent. Lastly there is always the god roll of finding a second Murloc Knight off the inspire effect, this can win you games by itself. Overall I like this card in midrange Paladin lists as it fits perfectly with the plan of slowly exhausting the opponents resources.
Azure Drake: Azure Drake is one of the best cards in the game for any deck that can make use out of it. You trade -1/-2 in vanilla stats (1 mana worth) for a cantrip (1.75 mana worth) and 1 Spell Damage (0.75 mana worth). In effect it means that you are playing about 6.5 mana worth of card for 5. You can make good use of spell power with Consecration, 3 damage is a much better break point when compared to 2 damage. Lastly the card is good to let you curve out for the later stages of the gaming, bridging the gap between the early tools and the late game tools. Overall I like the inclusion of it in the deck but the fact only Consecration benefits from Spell Power means you can substitute it for some bigger threat.
Stampeding Kodo: In the metagame there are enough targets to grant that Stampeding Kodo will hit something most of the times. The problem is that the metagame also has power plays, like the four mana 7/7, against which the Kodo is absolutely useless. I think the fact you run Humility type effects in the deck means you have to play Kodo, especially because this is decent single target removal in a deck that would really want to run two Equalities.
Ivory Knight: I really underestimated this card when it first came out, the flexibility it provides is invaluable. In a Reno deck very often you will find yourself struggling for resources as you run only one of each card, Ivory Knight can provide you the answer which you needed. Additionally it adds another solid heal to the already great repertoire available to Paladin, it should make opponents playing aggressive deck sweat bloody tears. Overall a great card that can cycle itself, provide card advantage whilst also being useful to stabilize your life total.
Ragnaros, Lightlord: This card is pretty damn good, it is a huge threat which heals for eight and demands an answer. Without hard removal this card is nearly guaranteed to provide sixteen worth of heal, this is huge against aggressive decks. If I wanted to make the deck more aggressive I could see myself substituting the Lightlord for the Firelord, but I will say all things considered the cards performance was excellent.
Ysera: As time went by I realized that having N’Zoth as a unique win-condition is bad against control decks, they can usually prepare by the time you play him. In order to deal with these decks the best thing is to lower the power of your N’Zoth and add a different win-condition; Elise or Ysera are currently the best alternative finishers to N’Zoth. I decided Ysera was better than Elise since the card can provide invaluable tools even against more aggressive decks. Additionally the stats make it so that very rarely you can trade efficiently with her, it demands some hard removal. Overall I felt as the second finisher for my midrange deck Ysera was ideal, Elise would have been way too slow for what this deck wants to achieve.
Cards to Consider
Brann Bronzebeard + Package: Brann is always good if you build your deck to include more Battlecry type effects. In this deck running good Battlecries wouldn’t harm the build, cards such as Defender of Argus and Earthen Ring Farseer are all usable. Additionally you could include Tomb Spider and potentially Jeweled Scarab, both can provide more value for the deck. The problem I see with including Brann is that the idea behind this deck-list wasn’t to have a value oriented deck but a more Midrange deck built for the late game. It seems to me the Brann game plan doesn’t seem to be in line with the N’Zoth one.
Harvest Golem: I think instead of playing Argent Squire you could play Harvest Golem, it trades with less support from other cards whilst also being good with N’Zoth. Like Squire this card is sticky, which means that usually it should be able to trade at least one for one. Probably worth testing it.
Mindcontrol Tech: Reno Jackson decks very often run this card as it can provide huge swing turns whilst answering large boards. Mindcontrol 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 emphasized 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.
Silvermoon Portal: I played this card in other decks and it wasn’t half bad most of the times, it actually is decent as it grants you trades and board control in one card. Additionally having Divine Shield minions makes it slightly better, two more attack to trade with is nothing to be laughed at. The fact it can sometimes give you Doomsayer is not a reason to not play it, the risk is very small. Overall the question is what to cut for it, Blessing of Kings is better on average and it seems all the other spots feel a more important roles when compared to Portal.
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 Carine Bloodhoof. The card overall is not bad but needs a specific metagame in order to be played.
Barnes: With this one I will admit my mistake, I forgot to put it in the deck! This card is amazing in this deck as it has a lot of synergy with Deathrattles and Divine Shield minions. Not much else to say.
Elise Starseeker: I only added her to this section because I thought some people may ask about her, my opinion is that it would be an awful fit in the current iteration of the deck. The reason I don’t want to run this card is that N’Zoth and Ysera are already enough to close out any game, there is no need to add even more late game potential. Even against Control decks most of the times you should be able to win as you will just out card them in the long run thanks to your card draw. Overall what you could do is substitute Ysera for Elise, but I think the former is just a better and faster finisher when compared to the latter.
Enter the Colosseum: There is not much removal for wide boards in the deck, thus Enter the Colosseum could be an option to fill that gap. The main problem I have with this removal is that it leaves the biggest threat from your opponent on board, meaning that it doesn’t really solve the major issue you are facing. Overall in a more control oriented list I would try it out, but as of now I would rather have stuff to play on board rather than unreliable removal.
Cairne Bloodhoof: I removed this card as I think it is way too greedy to be played in the current metagame. The problem with it is that whilst 8 mana worth of stats is really good in one card, it trades unfavourably against a lot of the other six cost minions. Cards such as Savannah Highmane, Emperor Thaurissan, and Sylvanas all destroy Cairne Bloodhoof for free, annulling the value of the card. Additionally getting Carine back from N’Zoth is slow, you would rather have more taunts to protect your life total. Overall if Control Warrior was the most popular class on ladder Cairne would be decent, but this is not the case so I feel the card does not have a place in the deck.
Grand crusader: I don’t know why this card is not played more, a 5/5 for six mana which gives you a card is not bad at all. Additionally even if it is true that Paladin has a lot of bad cards, mainly Secrets, it also has a lot of valuable cards like Equality. I think that the card has a place in the deck as it is a decent midrange threat which provides value, the question is what do you take out?.
Justicar Trueheart: This card is really good in control match-ups and would be a good fit to make the deck greedier. The problem is that I don’t think there are enough control decks on ladder to warrant the inclusion of Justicar in the deck. Additionally whilst the card is really good if you find the time to play it, usually you never play it before turn eight as if not you fall too far behind. Overall if I would have to guess this is probably the 32nd best card you could play in the deck, since you only have 30 slots you cannot include it.
Emperor Thaurissan: In the really greedy version of the deck I like the inclusion of this card as it provides a way to make your hand less clunky. On the other hand, in this deck you don’t run any specific Combos you want to reduce, and your hand doesn’t require heavy discounts in order to be playable. Overall it is probably better to not play Emperor in the current iteration of the deck.
The Curator: I would say this card is the first understudy of the deck, as it is probably the 31st best card you would want to include. The fact you run Dragons, one Murloc and a Beast means that The Curator should draw you at least two cards pretty consistently. The problem is that, whilst drawing cards is always good, the cards The Curator draws you don’t have immediate impact. When I am drawing a card usually I am searching for a specific one, very rarely it is Stampeding Kodo or Murloc Knight. On the other hand thinning your deck means that you will have more of a chance to find what you were looking for. Overall not sure but I think it is nearly good enough to make the cut.
Lay on Hands: It is less heal than Forbidden Healing but it does provide card draw, for a midrange deck it is a solid life gain and refill option. On the other hand the late game slots for the deck are packed, you don’t really want another 8 mana play. Additionally, unlike Forbidden Healing, it isn’t as easy to proc Wild Pyromancer when using it. This is a disadvantage in match-ups such as against Zoolock. Probably not worth it unless you want to take out Ragnaros Lightlord in favour of more card draw.
Late game Minions: I decided to put Ragnaros, Nefarian, Onyxia, Rafaam, etc. all in the same category because they fulfill similar roles in Reno Paladin lists; they are all late game bombs that require an answer. The whole greedy late game package is the one I cut to favour more early game, I found there wasn’t too much use of running a really greedy list as there is no need for that many threats. Overall which late game cards you include is up to you, I will say I really feel Ysera and N’Zoth is the perfect combination to steamroll the late game.
Matches Played: 50
W/L= 29/21 (58% win-rate)
Representative Data (no data about match-ups which I faced less than 4 times):
Midrange Hunter 2/6
Hunter seems to be one of the most popular classes on ladder. The key to beating hunter is either out early gaming them or hoping they draw poorly, if you can’t go neck to neck with them they will finish you with Savannah Highmane and Call of the Wild. Overall when playing this deck trying to out early game the Hunter is possible but very improbable. Additionally stabilizing can be tricky, whilst it is true that the deck packs a lot of healing it is also true that Hunter can pressure you even after a Reno. Overall from what I saw the match-up is really bad, I honestly don’t think Reno Paladin (in any form) can ever have a positive win-rate against Curve Hunter.
Aggro Shaman 5/2
Weirdly enough against Aggro Shaman you have a decent shot as you have the tools to beat them in different ways. You can out curve them locking them out early, the Divine Shield minions help with this plan. You can also out heal their reach, the heal is plentiful and strong in the deck. Additionally you can go the control route and remove their threats, you have the tools to neutralize the two biggest minions of their deck and you play decent threats of your own. Lastly you run Ooze which is really strong against Shaman, it allows you to destroy one of their win conditions whilst providing a huge tempo boost. A very important thing I noticed in this match-up is that it is more important to play a tempo Ooze turn 2 rather than saving it for Doomhammer, if you let the shaman deal too much damage to your face early you will just die.
With the inclusion of early game minions the match-up against Zoolock is very good, Divine Shield minions tend to be really tough for the deck to remove. Additionally the fact you run some removals and decent late game threats makes it so that if zoo cannot burst you in the first few turns of the game you should be favoured. The big thing to think about when you are playing this match-up is to keep an eye out for the Sea Giant mana cost count, Giant is a card that without an answer can blow you out. Overall the match-up is decent as Zoo will have a really hard time out board controlling you.
Dragon Warrior 3/3
If you don’t get blown out by their fast starts you have a decent chance, your late game should destroy theirs. A thing to consider is that the fact you run Divine Shield minions means that it will be very hard for the Warrior to capitalize on their early game trading strengths, Fiery War Axe by itself can’t do much against Argent Squires and such. On the other hand the availability of Ravaging Ghoul means sometimes they can just pop all the shields at once. Overall would say the match-up is slightly unfavourable but doable.
General Match-up Thoughts
First off in nearly every match-up you want to keep Equality in the mulligan, the card is just that strong. Setting up an Equality sweep usually grants you huge value as well as enabling you to fill the board and have a tempo advantage. Remember when you can, that you can Equality first and then activate Pyromancer to keep him on the board! Additionally some 4 drops are worth keeping in the opening hand, Truesilver Champion and Consecration are win conditions in certain match-ups. In general the rule for mulligans in any Reno deck is keeping a playable hand, you can’t search for a single card it is too inconsistent of a plan. As you play more games you will understand which cards are good keeps.
Against Control decks, as a midrange Paladin you want to draw a lot. The way you win is through dropping one threat after another and forcing the opponent to use their removal inefficiently. Additionally most of the times you can force out all of your opponent’s hand and finish off the game with an unanswered N’Zoth or Ysera. Remember the key is to not give your opponent too much value with AoE sweeps, take the game slowly and grind their removal out.
Midrange decks are hard but not impossible. Obviously from the statistics you should be able to deduce that midrange decks which are on the more aggressive side should be able to out curve you, and thus destroy you. On the other hand if a midrange deck is more on the control side, you have a decent chance at fighting back. For example, Midrange Shaman is very possible to beat, you can just out resource them in the long run. Overall the deck is ok even if it doesn’t curve out as consistently as other midrange decks.
Combo decks are hard to beat, even if I feel the match-up is better than when I use pure Control Paladin. The reason for this is that this deck can put decent pressure throughout the curve, packing decent minions in nearly all mana slots. Additionally the pressure the deck provides should also prevent the combo decks from just drawing cards without worrying about your board. Overall I still think you have a hard time beating them, as heal doesn’t matter much if you get one shot from 30 health and this is still quite a slow deck.
Aggressive decks are actually a pretty good match-up, you have the control tools to prevent damage to your face as well as a lot of heal. Additionally the fact you pack early game means you can sometimes be able to go even on board in the first few turns of the game. Obviously sometimes you will get steamrolled by the god curve, this is bound to happen, but on average you should have a fighting chance.
Overall I really like this deck and how it matches up against the current metagame. The only really tough match-up is Hunter, against the rest of the field you have a decent chance to win.
The most irritating part of this run is that playing from an internet bar, meaning that one out of every three games I disconnected. On the other hand playing this deck was really fun, and the games which I did manage to play I was really impressed by how it performed. Overall I would suggest to anybody which is bored with the same old decks to try this out, it performs decently and as of now it is the start of the season so no worries about the rank!
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