Weekly Legends: Reno Mage
Today we cover my favorite deck of Mean Streets so far. I have played things from every class and every archetype over the past two weeks, but nothing has quite been quite as exciting as Reno Mage. That is because, similar to chess, the deck takes an incredible amount of thinking and has an extremely high skill cap. Not only that, but it also allows you to play some extremely interesting cards and is very good versus aggro (which makes up a large portion of the current ladder). While all three Reno classes have their ups and downs, I currently think this to be the best choice right now. Not only do you have a lot of very strong tools against both Pirate Warrior and Aggro Shaman (namely Water Elemental and early removal), but you also have an extremely good matchup against Renolock.
While I do not normally cover streamer lists (because they are usually meta decks or close meta decks) this week’s deck comes from Dog. When Mean Streets first dropped I was extremely interested in Reno Mage. However, no matter what I did I could not get it to click. It either felt too slow, too clunky, or was simply being out-valued and out-rushed. That changed when I ran into this list, which I believe to have the optimal number of cards this deck needs to survive in the current meta. While you could make an argument to tweak one card here or there (or make room for Dirty Rat), I don’t think you want to shift any of this. These are your best options, and I know that because I’ve tried to make the others work.
Understanding the burn is an extremely important part of getting to know how this deck operates. Though your first inclination will be to use things like Frostbolt and Fireball to control the board, you only want to do that against aggro. When playing a fast deck your win condition is going to simply be outlasting them, so it is ok to use all of your spells to mitigate the board as much as you can (and Frostbolting a Warrior or Shaman to take away a weapon hit can work wonders as well). However, when playing go-big midrange decks (Jade Druid or Dragon Priest) you typically only want to use these as a last resort over your non-damage based removal like Polymorph, Flame Lance, or Firelands Portal. By saving your damage you give yourself some versatility for the end of the game because you can go face if needed.
The most important application of your burn is going to come up in control vs. control matchups. When playing against Reno you are always going to take the game to fatigue. That is completely fine, and something you should strive for. That is because you can level your burn and use it to power your opponent down to death. Having an extra nine, twelve, or fifteen damage (Frostbolt, Fireball, Roaring Torch) at the end of any game is going to enable you to allow you to set up lethal alongside fatigue much easier than your opponent can. That extra burst will put you in control and allow you to finish your opponent off, but if you use it early they are often going to have priority, which puts you in a bad spot.
As usual, being able to properly use Doomsayer is a very important part of this list. The 0/7 continues to be essential to slow Mage decks because it gives you a very strong tool against both aggro and control. Playing this on turn two against aggro is going to do a lot of work, but you don’t always want to run it out just because you can. Yes, getting to kill a Tunnel Trogg and take priority in the same turn is good, but you want to have a very set plan for this. For instance, running this out against a turn one Small-time Buccaneer is a good play because it means, even with a turn two weapon, your opponent cannot kill the sayer. However, if you have a chance to hold this off turn two and play it turn three to catch another minion in the blast you should. Just always calculate your opponent’s possible damage and see if it could add up to seven.
As with most cards being covered here, its role against aggro is very straightforward but its role against control is much more complex. This is because when facing slow decks you are going to almost always want to use Doomsayer to set up a big minion or shut down your opponent’s plays. I would say this is one of the most difficult things to learn in this deck, but it is very important. Putting down the two drop on turn five on an empty board against a Reno deck to stop Emperor Thaurissan or using it to set up your own are the type of game-winning plays you need to take control. It also can be a great follow up to AOE as a way to stop certain decks (such as Jade Druid) from putting down more bodies. Those tempo moves also very good at setting up Alexstrasza.
While Brann Bronzebeard will often not do much more than be a three mana 2/4 in aggro matchups, he is absolutely vital in the control game. There are a ton of Reno and Jade decks running around the ladder, and you will never win any of those games if you do not manage to use the explorer correctly. When facing midrange you want to use this with Kazakus, and when playing control you always want to use this with Kazakus and Kabal Courier. Those two cards are the only things you want to pair with Brann because the card should only ever be used as a way to generate extra tempo through card advantage. Kazakus is an insanely strong card, and getting to double dip on his ability is the way you blow the Reno and Jade matchups wide open. Kabal Courier also has a ton of value, and being able to get two chances to look at a range of spells from three classes will almost always get your something useful (burn or removal). When facing a faster deck he can be good as a “must kill” threat early on or as a heal with Refreshment Vendor, but you always want to the dwarf with the Courier and Kazakus against control. So much so that you should never play him without both of those cards in hand. The wait is always going to be worth it.
Manic Soulcaster is one of the most interesting, and most powerful, cards in this list. In fact, I am not sure if this deck would be able to exist without it. Being able to play a second key card in control matchups is so incredibly strong that a lot of the time it will win you the game on the spot. The 3/4 is not an easy card to use card because you want to have a plan for it in every single matchup. Against aggro you are going to play it as a 3/4 if you get it early, and you are going to copy a heal card if you have more time. Against slower decks you either want to use this to get extra value from either Kazakus or Kabal Courier in games that aren’t going to go deep into fatigue, or Reno Jackson when you are being pressured or you are going very long. There are no other cards really worth copying unless you just want the 3/4 body as a tempo move.
A very important note with Manic Soulcaster is that when playing Renolock you need to recognize when you’re facing down straight up Reno and when you’re playing against the burst combo. The reason for that is, when you are playing against the burst combo you have to be able to heal twice. Chances are your opponent won’t be able to get too much damage on you right away, and so their combo will only then be able to pop your Ice Block. However, after that happens you will quickly die to fatigue. As a result, you have to have that second Reno to win the long game. In contrast, if you suspect your opponent doesn’t have the combo you want to copy Kazakus since you want as many ten mana spells as possible.
Alexstrasza is a very interesting card in this list because she just has so many different modes. One of the most important uses for this card is an aggressive play. Knocking your opponent down to fifteen is a big tempo move that will instantly put you in control of the game. You are only going to use this when you have a window, and you usually want to set it up with Doomsayer or similar AOE. While this can be combined with burst a la Freeze Mage to instantly end your opponent with Frostbolt, Fireball, and Roaring Torch, it is much more often going to be used to buy time or to make your opponent use Reno Jackson. Your opponent is immediately going to get scared when you cut their life total in half, and that pressure can be a great way to save some health or tie up their mana by baiting out removal.
The other important part of Alexstrasza is the healing. Going back to fifteen life is something you are rarely going to do, but it does help when you don’t have access to Reno Jackson. You are typically going to use this healing to move up from low levels of health in order to save an Ice Block more than you are going to use it as a way to not die. Keeping an Ice Block in-tact is one of the most important parts of this deck because it allows you that extra turn to cast spells or develop minions before you hit your opponent with Reno. Getting an 8/8 body down and also putting yourself up from lethal range is one of those plays that can get you one more turn, which then pushes you further on to your bigger spells.
The five decks I’ve seen the most in the early meta.
While Pirate Warrior is waning in popularity, it is still quite prevalent at many stages of the ladder. Honestly, I wish it was even more popular than it is. This deck is extremely favored versus Pirate, and will only often lose if your opponent gets an absolute God draw and you get nothing. When I was first testing Reno Mage, pirate was the reason I could never get it to stick. However, this version has a ton of early game options between things like Mistress of Mixtures, Acidic Swamp Ooze, Kabal Courier, Manic Soulcaster and Water Elemental. All of those act as either walls or healing for your opponent to get through. Even something as simple as an Acolyte of Pain or Loot Hoarder can make your opponent trade, which buys you both time and life.
All that matters here is living until you can Reno Jackson. The explorer will instantly end the game and almost immediately draw a concession. This is because Pirates need to use their cards to do damage and will not be able to inflict thirty more than once. You need to dig through your deck as quickly as possible while also making sure you constantly clear the board. Do not worry about overkill here. Just do your best to use your removal on anything they play. Flame Lanceing a Kor'kron Elite may feel bad, but it’s better than taking four more damage your next turn. Also, always Kazakus for five if possible. You really want the armor and the ability to either draw or wipe the board.
Note: You almost never want to use Acidic Swamp Ooze early on here. Killing a turn two Fiery War Axe can be a strong play, but you typically want to hit Arcanite Reaper. The only exception to this is if they use an Upgrade! or Bloodsail Cultist to buff something.
Ah, to be young and a Shaman. Thanks to Reynad, Aggro Shaman has once again reared its ugly head. That spells very bad news for decks like Warrior and Rogue, but it is fantastic news for us. As with Pirate Warrior, this list is built to beat Aggro Shaman by packing in a ton of strong early options in addition to the later control cards. Your goal here is to just outlast every single thing they have. Like Warrior, Shaman is a deck that depends on blowing their most of their cards for huge burst potential. However, unlike Pirate, they have large minions like Flamewreathed Faceless. Always try and prepare for this and do your best to get board before turn four so you can trade into the giant body. Once you get Reno Jackson this one should be over.
Just like saving Acidic Swamp Ooze against Pirate, you should usually try to save the little green two drop for a Doomhammer over their other weapons. The only exception is if you desperately need the early board against a Spirit Claws. Beyond that, you want to try to play a removal spell or a minion every single turn. While Shaman has a lot of ways to do damage, their opening minions are relatively small. As such, you should usually try to play a solid minion early on over a removal spell unless you are killing a Tunnel Trogg. Kazakus should also always be five here. The four damage to everything on turn five is invaluable.
When you first play this matchup it is going to feel unwinnable. However, the more you play this match the more you are going to realize it is almost impossible to lose. The reason is that you are going to get impatient at first. They are going to play minions, draw cards and do a bunch of fancy plays while you sit back and remove their minions, count your cards, and wait. Your whole game plan is to limit the amount of damage you take while waiting until you can run out Brann Bronzebeard, Kazakus and Kabal Courier all in the same turn. That should give you enough power to control the board for the rest of the game and make it safely into fatigue.
When using Kazakus you have two routes you can go. You can either take as much AOE as possible to battle any pressure your opponent musters, or you can go for direct damage to simply burn them out once they run out of cards. Both of these avenues work as long as you know what cards your opponent has left and what your options are. If you think your opponent is combo, taking the ten armor can also be a great way to full make sure they won’t pop your Ice Block. As mentioned earlier, this is also a game where you want to work really hard to save your burn. Going into the end of the game with fifteen burst is key because that is the sweet spot Renolock will sit at without healing and it is also the amount of health Jaraxxus has. Also, even if they do heal up for fear of burn, you can then Alexstrasza their face and then kill them that way.
Oh, boy. Every single deck in Hearthstone, be it aggro, midrange, or control, has its weakness, and Jade Druid is Reno Mage’s. I am not saying this matchup is impossible (I have won it twice) but it’s just about as hard as you can get. The reason is that you can never take Druid to fatigue thanks to Jade Idol, which means you need to pressure them with damage. However, you are not a deck that runs a lot of threats and Druid runs Feral Rage to heal up after Alexstrasza. That is a bad recipe through and through. The way you win this is by saving your AOE for when they start really pumping out their big Jade Golems and making sure you get more clears from a Brann Bronzebeard/Kazakus combo. If you can stagger those big spells right you should be able to get something to stick when Druid only has idols left in their deck. While a one mana 10/10 is good, you can actually race from that point on. That goes double if you manage to Manic Soulcaster your Reno Jackson to get two leases on life.
More good matchups. While Dragon Priest, especially with the addition of Kabal Talonpriest, seems very difficult, I have had overwhelming success in this showdown. The reason for that is Dragon Priest has very little burst. The only direct damage the deck has is Blackwing Corruptor, two of which can do at most six in one turn. That means if you can keep your life total in the twenties or mid-teens for most of the game your opponent will never be able to actually finish you off. This is a match where you want to go fatigue if at all possible because Dragon Priest will draw a lot of cards and they will start taking on skulls before you. Like Renolock, you are going to win this game by being reactive for thirty turns and then allowing your opponent to draw themselves to death.
The most important thing to recognize here is that you are going to feel like you are losing for most of the game. Dragon Priest’s discover cards and quick draw means they are always going to have a full hand in addition to the board. However, if you are patient and know how to balance your removal and AOE you should be fine. Never panic. You may want to burn a key Polymorph on a Drakonid Operative, but if you can wait a turn you absolutely should. You will need the sheep for one of their big dragons later on. Be careful with all of your removal and do your best to have threats in mind that you need to kill.
Mulliganing with this deck is very interesting because, as a Reno deck, you only have one of each card. That means when you put something back you should make sure you don’t want to see it again. Mistress of Mixtures, Arcane Blast, Babbling Book, Acidic Swamp Ooze, Frostbolt and Loot Hoarder are your must keeps here.
Beyond that, Acolyte of Pain is a good keep with the coin or a strong opening and both Doomsayer and Volcanic Potion should be kept against all aggro decks. Forgotten Torch is good with a strong curve. Refreshment Vendor, Water Elemental and Kazakus are both solid with the coin and a curve. I like to keep Ice Block against control, but it’s a bit too slow when facing control.
Casting spells is fun. Sooo fun! Babbling Books aside, this is a pretty awesome list and a very awesome deck. It is strong, it is resilient, has a ton of good matchups right now and allows you to play chess inside of Hearthstone. I have never been a big slow, control player but I do love decks with a lot of moving parts like this one. So much so that this is probably going to be my primary climbing deck from some time. I hope you enjoy it half as much as I have, and as always, thanks for reading. Until next time, may you always heal for twenty nine.