Hello everybody, I am Matteo Ghisoni and I love Reno Jackson decks. Sorry Hunters! This article is the first installation of a series focusing on different Reno builds. What I will do is: build a deck, play 30-50 games with it and write about the experience. The article should not be seen as a guide but as a discussion about deck-building.
I didn’t think that Reno Rogue could work without providing an additional win condition, as minions and Rogue spells alone would not provide a way to consistently close out games. The idea was to make a board focused deck with two main win conditions: N’Zoth, the Corruptor and Reno Jackson. N’Zoth, the Corruptor when played very often signals the end of the game, as coming back from the value the card provides is very hard in a metagame where board clears are rare and class specific. Reno on the other hand can provide time to last until N’Zoth can be played, with the added bonus of sometimes winning match-ups against aggressive decks on the spot. Additionally Deathrattle minions are strong across the curve, providing consistent drops for most turns.
The core of the deck list
In the 30 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: Backstab, Deadly Poison, Eviscerate, Sap, Undercity Huckster, Shadow Strike, SI:7 Agent, Tomb Pillager, Reno Jackson, Sylvanas Windrunner and N’Zoth, the Corruptor. Cutting the two win conditions in N’Zoth and Reno would obviously be absurd. The spells in the above list are all good spells which tend to be found in nearly every Rogue deck, they are all versatile and can be used both early and late game to deal with difficult board states. Undercity Huckster and Tomb Pillager are the best Deathrattles in the game for their mana cost, and arguably the strongest minions the Rogue class has access to. Undercity Huckster is a card which generates card advantage for free, it cycles itself once it dies meaning that often it can trade two cards for one. Tomb Pillager is basically a three mana 5/4, with the added bonus of providing a coin which can activate Rogue combo cards. Sylvanas Windrunner is also a really good Deathrattle. 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. Lastly SI:7 Agent is a consistent Rogue card which has been included in every Rogue deck since it was introduced.
Shiv, Bloodmage Thalnos, Loot Hoarder, Fan of Knives and Azure Drake can also be all considered core to the deck. These cards all cycle themselves meaning that when they are played you are one card closer to both Reno and N’Zoth. Harrison Jones also acts as a core card in the current metagame. The two most popular classes, Shaman and Warrior, play weapons making Harrison Jones a sufficiently consistent draw mechanic with the added bonus of destroying a weapon. Finally it also has to be noted that Bloodmage Thalnos and Azure Drake provide Spell Damage, making all the spells in the deck better.
Overall I feel the above is a synergistic core of cards which provide a solid basis to construct a deck around.
The Rest of the Deck
Preparation: This card surprised me, even without Violet teacher and Gadgetzan Auctioneer it still performed. The reason I decided to include it was that this list ran seven spells with cost of two or more mana, this is a sufficient number as decks which run 2 Preparations usually run no more than 8 such spells. Additionally I knew that the tempo-swing provided by the card can sometimes win match-ups by itself, notably the Hunter one. I also considered that since I was running both Edwin VanCleef and SI:7 Agent, playing preparation meant I had more cards I could keep in my mulligan for turns 2 and 3, making the early game more consistent. Lastly, if Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Violet Teacher were to be included in the deck, Preparation would become an auto-include because of the synergy it has with these cards.
Shadowstep: This card is certainly fun, but I think it can also fill a very important role in the deck; it provides a win condition against control decks. Usually playing N’Zoth two turns in a row is nearly impossible to deal with, only double Brawl provides a clean answer to it. Additionally, Shadowstep has the added utility of working with Reno Jackson in order to gain all your health back twice. Another interesting interaction is that if Reno Jackson is Shadowstepped it can be played on the same turn as Shadowcaster, making it possible to guarantee an additional copy of Reno Jackson. The card has also synergy with Battlecry/Combo cards: Edwin VanCleef, Shadowcatser, Azure Drake and SI:7 Agent all benefit from Shadowstep being in the deck. The main problem is that the card takes a card slot when a version of it can be found from the Battlecry and Deathrattle of Xaril, Poisoned Mind. Overall the card is versatile but not running Battlecries makes it a questionable choice in the deck, I think it can be relegated to a tech card if one is facing a lot of control decks.
Death from Below: There are 27 possible cards you can discover with Death from Below, nine of them are good, nine of them are average and nine are bad, meaning that usually there will always be at least one good choice in the options given. Additionally some of the discovered cards can win match-ups by themselves, the most obvious example being Anub’arak which is a Control Warrior killer. Death from Below can also help you curve out more smoothly through out the game, as Deathrattles cover a wide range of mana costs. In my opinion this card is very good in the deck and is probably a keeper.
Burgle: The card is fun, but is it good? Not really. Burgle can be considered a less reliable and more un-predictable Thoughtsteal. In control match-ups card advantage is an important factor but there are other cards which can be run if control is a targeted match-up. One redeeming factor is that class cards are usually better than neutral cards. One thing to consider is that if Burgle is removed from the deck Preparation has one less target. Additionally both Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Violet Teacher can potentially benefit from Burgle if it gives you a spell. Overall I think Burgle is not a good card but it has to be kept because spell synergy is needed for the deck to work and there are no other spells you can run instead of it.
Edwin VanCleef: In this deck it is harder to make a big Edwin VanCleef as there are less low cost spells. On the other hand a 4/4 for 3 mana is already good enough. This card has the added advantage of winning the game on the spot, given the right hand. I think there is no reason not to run it.
Harvest Golem: The card trades with two drops leaving a 2/1 body making it worth, in stats, exactly what you paid for it. On average you will always get 3 mana worth from Harvest Golem even when the first part of the body trades unfavourably. This is why I included it, it is a low drop which trades with low drops and makes you go equal on board. Overall it can be substituted but doing this makes the early game much less consistent.
Unearthed Raptor: A 3/4 for 3 is vanilla stats, the effect is an added bonus. Often times I found myself using Unearthed Raptor on curve on Loot Hoarder or Bloodmage Thalnos in order to have more cycle and get to my power-plays faster. I was pleasantly surprised with this card because even if it wasn’t game breaking, it consistently provided me with 4 or 5 mana worth of card for 3 mana, this is good value. Additionally it trades well with 2 drops making it not the end of the world if there is no Deathrattle to copy on turn three.
Xaril, Poisoned Mind: This card was pretty underwhelming, I think the reason for this being there wasn’t enough synergy with the toxins it provided. I believe that if one were to include Violet teacher and Gadgetzan Auctioneer the value of the Toxins could actually be fully assessed. The card does had the bonus of possibly giving Bloodthistle Toxin, this accompanied by a coin works as a poor’s man shadowstep for N’Zoth. Overall I think the card is good and the toxins are generally ok, with the Briarthorn and Fadeleaf Toxins being slightly underwhelming in the current version of the deck.
Assassinate: I hate that I have to run this card but there is no other option, the removal is needed. Hitting a big minion with it feels underwhelming as it is so hard to develop a strong card in the same turn (most of the power plays of the deck are 6 mana). Thus emperor is a good way to make the cost less of a problem, Preparation also serving to this aim. In general the card is a strictly worst entomb but there is nothing else to run in place of it.
Shadowcaster: The card can be awesome when it hits Reno and it is average if it hits a Deathrattle. The main problem is that when you hit a Deathrattle minion with it, before the Deathrattle can trigger you have to wait at least another turn. This is often too slow, even for a very powerful effect. Additionally if you run Shadowcaster you really want to run Brann Bronzebeard as combining the card provides two Brann Bronzebeard’s; this allows you to extract a ton of value from Battlecries; obviously this deck has only two Battlecries so Brann is not an option. I think this cards fits much better a C’Thun Battlecry archetype rather than a N’Zoth Deathrattle one, that being said the card was never so unplayable I wished I had another card in my hand. Hitting a Deathrattle minion is not the worst thing in the world as usually the effect are pretty strong, additionally it can work with Azure Drake, Bloodmage Thalnos and Loot Hoarder, to gain more much needed card draw, and from the former two even spell power.
Dark Iron Skulker: This card could potentially win the match up against Zoolock, the problem I had is that against aggressive decks I never drew it once. I am not completely sold on Dark Iron Skulker because often I found myself in a situation where I wished I had something stronger to play for the five mana cost. On the other hand given the lack of AOE’s in the deck I think it is mandatory to play it. Additionally if you run Shadowstep, Shadowstepping a Dark Iron Skulker against a zoo can help you deal with two boards; this though is a very long shot as it would require either Shadowstepping the minion the turn before and waiting to extract more value, or hoping the minion survives on board, both seem like inconsistent lines of play. Overall I think the card is required but not necessarily awesome, certainly the first card to go if I were to build the deck to be only good against control decks.
Cairne Bloodhoof: This card is really greedy, it needs various turns in order to get it’s full value, but usually it is really hard to deal with. Additionally a N’Zoth bringing back a Cairne is into a bad deal and Unearthed Raptor on Cairne is also pretty damn good. Lastly consider that Shadowcaster on Cairne gives a 1/1 Cairne, this is basically as good as Twilight Summoner which costs four mana. In control match-ups it is an additional resource waster for your opponent enabling you to run him out of cards before N’Zoth is played. I like Cairne, it has to be said that it trades pretty awfully against a lot of six drops such as Emperor Tharussian, making it often just go equal with its 6 mana cost. One thing to be said is that if Cairne was to be removed, Shadowcaster should also be removed as the latter is already a borderline card.
Emperor Tharussian: I mainly run it because I wanted to pull of Reno into Shadowcaster, in 30 games it happened twice, this by itself is not enough of an incentive to run the card. On the other hand I found that often my hand was really clunky and hard to play, Emperor made it possible to play more threats in one turn. Additionally running Preparation and other good tempo spells makes it possible to win games on the back huge tempo swings. Overall I liked the card and hitting 4 cards is usually already enough to make it worthwhile running.
Cards to consider
Sir Finley Mrglton: Cut deadly poison, use Finley, get Life Tap, role play as a Renolock. I didn’t put this card in the deck because, outside Life Tap, value wise no hero power is better than the Rogue one. Equipping a dagger enables you to both deal 1 damage or save the damage for later use. Compared to the Druid and Mage hero powers, the dagger is nearly always better, you get double the damage for the same mana cost; the only real drawback is you have to take damage in order to use the weapon. The Hunter hero power is useless for the game plan of this deck. The Priest hero power is good only if you are ahead on board and the Warrior hero power is just a worst version of the Priest one. Finally Shaman and Paladin hero powers have no synergy in the deck since you cannot buff minions. On average Finley is bad, only 1/3 of the time you will gain an advantage from the card.
Doomsayer: If one is facing a lot of low-curving decks, Doomsayer can be a lifesaver in the early game. Additionally if you are managing to fight on board, a turn 5 Doomsayer on a nearly empty board can provide a good set-up for a Cairne Bloodhoof or Emperor Tharussian. Doomsayer also improves the early game consistency by providing an additional useful draw that can be kept in the mulligan. On the other hand playing low drop cards, such as: Harvest Golem, Loot Hoarder, Undercity Huckster etc… means that technically doomsayer is counter synergistic in the deck. If you drop a two drop on turn two Doomsayer becomes a dead card in hand as if it is played it would just clear your board. In general the card is playable but I am not completely sold on it, if there is a lot of Zoolock and Shamans on ladder it is certainly a card to consider.
Defies Ringleader: As an early game option I prefer this to Doomsayer, Defias Ringleader can be played alongside the lower drops in the deck without destroying them. Additionally this card can be an insane tempo swing early game, as Backstab into Defies Ringleader is one of the strongest plays against aggressive decks on turn 2. On the other hand this card drains resources in order to be played and is very weak if dropped just as a 2/2 for two mana. Something to consider is that in at least 50% of your games you should be able to activate the card with the coin.
Wild Pyromancer: This card is a Zoolock tech but I do not think it would actually help very much in any other match-up. Not being able to heal it means that the card is either an expensive whirlwind or a very expensive consecrate. On the other hand the Zoolock match up is really hard since you run only one Fan of Knives, usually to answer Zoolock board states a whirlwind effect is indispensable.
Earthen Ring Farseer: The card is decent enough, but I think that you would rather have higher level three drop rather than a 3/3 with an effect which will rarely make the difference; especially considering there is Reno Jackson in the deck. Before Earthen Ring Farseer I would probably consider Refreshment Vendor, as this card fits a better place in the mana curve whilst providing a similar effect.
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.
Violet Teacher: Not putting Violet Teacher in the deck was a mistake. The card has synergy with cards such as Xaril, Poisoned Mind and Tomb Pillager alongside all the spells. A big Violet Teacher turn can often decide a game against an aggressive deck.
Refreshment vendor: 50% more chance to find a heal and another four drop to play seems like a decent proposition. This card is never considered before Violet Teacher, as Violet Teacher is better against aggressive decks as it provides board presence. On the other hand running only three four-drops is very rarely a good idea, as the four mana turn is a very important turn in Hearthstone; minions start having important effects and often can snowball if not dealt with. The problem with Refreshment Vendor is that you don’t want to substitute anything out for it. Realistically no spell can go out as their effects are more important than a heal. Early Deathrattles have to stay as they are essential in order to fight for board. Late game minions are few and needed, thus there seems to be no space for the card in the deck.
Nexus-Champion Saraad: The card provides value, it is fun and it fits the deck. The spells provided should be fine, especially if Violet Teacher and Gadgetzan Auctioneer are played. On the other hand the reason why this card rarely sees play is that it seems that on average it doesn’t provide anything useful, additionally the Rogue Hero Power is not one that you want to use every turn. If one wants to have fun I would definitely consider playing this card, if one wants to win there are probably better options to consider.
Stampeding Kodo: This is a bad tech card even if you are facing a lot of Shamans which have many targets for it. If a Shaman plays a turn four 7/7, a Stampeding Kodo is never a good answer. Additionally when playing against Hunter the only targets are: Leokk, Fiery Bat and the occasional Flame Juggler, making the card a five mana four-drop. Stampeding Kodo can be a surprise factor against Tempo Warrior, as the non-dragon variant runs Bloodhoof Brave; consider though that nobody plays the normal variant anymore, Dragon Warrior has infested the ladder. Overall I wouldn’t play it, tech cards should be put to win games, or make match-up’s winnable; Stampeding Kodo does none of the two.
Elise Starseeker: If you do not want to run Shadowstep, Elise is another option to beat control decks. The advantage of Elise is that even without the effect it is a decent body on curve. The main problem of this card is that you need to draw three cards in order to use it as a finisher against Control decks, this means Elise is less consistent than Shadowstep. If I were to run Elise I think I would add more cycle to the deck, this makes finding the monkey easier; maybe a Novice Engineer or a Corrupted Loot Hoarder could work well alongside the card.
Gadgetzan Auctioneer: I will admit not running this card was probably a mistake, it makes all the spells plus: Xaril, Undercity Huckster, Burgle and Tomb Pillager better on average. If one wants to be cute one could also try to find space for a Conceal and an Ancient Harbringer. Running Ancient Harbringer makes your N’Zoth win condition more consistent, whilst also making it easier to find Reno. Conceal has synergy with the deck even outside these two cards, as it can be useful to set up lethal damage and protect minions. I think that even if on paper Ancient Harbringer, Conceal and Gadgetzan look good, in order to find space for them some high cost cards need to go. The problem is that the only two that could go are Emperor Tharussian and Cairne Bloodhoof; Emperor is good with Gadgetzan, and Cairne is good with Unearthed Raptor and N’Zoth. Overall it seems fun to run Ancient Harbringer, Conceal and Gadgetzan Auctioneer but it is probably better to just include Gadgetzan Auctioneer.
Yogg’Saron, Hope’s End If you are that kind of guy, Yogg’saron can be good in this deck. Whilst it is true that the amount of spells that are present in the deck is not that high, usually a Yogg’Saron with 6 spells should already accomplish enough to be worthwhile running. On the other hand the deck is already inconsistent as it is, it runs only one of’s, adding another inconsistent card might not be the best choice. Overall Yogg’Saron is not the worse choice as the synergy is there, additionally it has the advantage of being a fun card to play if you are not on the receiving end of it.
Matches played: 30
W/L=13/17 (43% win-rate)
An interesting piece of data was that all matches were lost against Zoolock (3), Face Shaman (3) and C’Thun Druid (3) whilst all matches were won against different variants of Tempo Warrior (5). Other decks were represented poorly as at the start of the month the meta is very diverse and the statistics were not representative.
General match-up thoughts
This deck is a control killer, it has enough early game pressure and exhaust resources from the opponent, whilst still having a lot of late game potential thanks to to N’zoth and Shadowstep . Usually this combination will enable you to win against any control deck. Lastly Reno Jackson should enable you to stall easily against control decks to last until N’zoth Shadowstep can close out the game.
Priest is nearly impossible to lose as the class not having access to Lightbomb means it has no way of dealing with a N’Zoth board. Usually Holy Nova and Excavated Evil will not be enough to deal with N’Zoth, and even if they are the second N’Zoth should close out the game.
Control C’thun Warriors can kill you, provided that they have the perfect mid-range curve and you have no way to deal with the board. If this criteria is not met then the match-up is as easy as the priest one. The C’Thun setup should require more time than the N’Zoth one.
Elise Warriors suffer of the same problem, two Brawls is rarely enough as Shadowstep plus possible Xaril poisons could equate in N’Zoth chaining, provided the right RNG. Additionally usually one Brawl is easily baited out from the Warrior before the first N’Zoth; if the warrior is playing defensively it is really easy to pressure him with cards such as: Tomb Pillager, Cairne Bloodhoof and Sylvanas Windrunner.
N’zoth Paladin I can only theory-craft on as I didn’t face any on ladder whilst playing this deck. I think this match up would actually be really hard for the N’Zoth Reno Rogue as the Paladin has more control tools and can dish out decent pressure with the big drops. Tirion Fordring, Carine Bloodhoof, Ragnaros Lightlord are all really hard to deal with, unfortunately Rogue has limited control tools.
In general the main weakness of the deck is that it has difficulties dealing with big threats. This is why all the C’Thun Druid match-ups were lost, the deck can’t deal with midrange threats such as Dark Arakkoa and Druid of the Claw. Traditionally the Rogue-Druid match up is one that the Rogue manages to win using a very strong tempo turn and snowballing the Druid out of the game. With half the spells of a traditional Rogue deck this is possible only half the time. Running one Sap also really hurts the match-up as Sap is the direct counter to Innervate. In general whilst a big N’Zoth usually wins you the game, C’Thun Druid can usually apply pressure and defeat you before you can do anything.
What I said above in part also applies to Shaman, but what really hurts in this match-up is that it is really hard to finish the game. Whilst for a while it is possible to keep the board clear, when the shaman plays Thing from Below alongside another threat it is really hard to deal with such a board. Having one Sap also hurts the match up as only half the time there will be a clean answer to a turn four 7/7, and even if Sap is found when Flamewreathed Faceless comes down again on turn six there will probably be no more answers to it.
Zoolock is also very hard to deal with as even if Reno is found the board is very hard to keep clear. Additonally the Warlock Hero Power applies huge pressure whilst making it impossible to run the opponent out of cards.
The match-up against agressive decks in general feels like a coin flip, if Reno is found it is probably possible to win the match-up through out carding the opponent, if Reno is not found due to the lack of clears the damage will become overwhelming before it is possible to stabilise. There are some tools, for example SI:7 Agent, which allow to out-tempo an aggressive deck early in the game, but in general relying on two card combos to win a match up is never a good sign.
For some reason the Dragon Tempo Warrior match-up felt really easy, probably because it is very easy to deal with their threats on curve and out-card them. One thing to note is that in four out of the five games played against them I found Reno Jackson, meaning that the statistics could be skewed because of this. In general though running low drops and being able to fight for board makes it possible to fight evenly against one of the most popular decks on ladder.
Overall the control match up is really easy, but midrange decks are really hard to beat. Aggressive decks are possible to deal with through early game cards and Reno, if one can survive out carding an aggressive deck is not too hard.
The deck is probably weaker than Sjow’s popular version of N’Zoth Rogue as the consistency of the deck is sacrificed to play around the power that Reno can bring. On the other hand the deck-list is far from optimised as it at least needs Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Violet Teacher since the two card would provide additional card draw and synergise well with the deck. The deck also allows you to play some cards which are rarely used, for example Shadowcaster and Burgle, and being able to justify the inclusion of these cards in the deck. Overall it was really fun to play this deck and I am happy with the list because the cards synergise well between each other and there is a good balance on the curve.