Hearthstone is an amazingly complex game that offers tons of different strategies to explore and build around. Some players prefer the straightforward approach of an aggressive deck, while others find more pleasure in burying their opponent in value trades and card advantage. After my last article about decision-making, I figured that it would be a good followup to talk about a deck that requires high quality analysis and careful play at every point – Reno Mage. This list, newly revitalized with cards from the Mean Streets, is a potent control deck where every card gives you different options. If you enjoy carefully thinking through each decision and facing a unique puzzle in every game, you’re going to love this!
Reno Mage offers incredibly rewarding gameplay that requires high level of decision-making and planning. The different lists have varying intentions and win conditions, but they all rely on a slower value-centric game that really appeals to control players. Two main versions are the minion-based list (link here) and the Freeze core list (link here). The printing of cards such as Kazakus, Manic Soulcaster, and Inkmaster Solia finally made the deck viable, something many players have been trying to achieve for some time. It’s also worth specifically mentioning one of Reno Mage’s best mass removal tools, Volcanic Potion, as it is incredibly powerful against the Pirates and Totems that are common in aggressive lists. On top of all that, we have good old Ice Block to stop the combo decks dead. With all these tools at our disposal, what could go wrong?
Despite all the strengths of Reno Mage, it is weak to certain scenarios! First, the deck may be too slow to take care of early aggression: enemies such as Pirate Warrior, Aggro Shaman or Miracle Rogue can build up damage incredibly fast and we might simply not draw into enough removal or stall cards. It’s not uncommon to end up dead just before or even after Reno. However, aggro decks are not the biggest problem and if we draw anything useful, the matchup looks to be really strong for Mage. On the other hand, Jade Druid seems to be our nemesis – we simply don’t have enough removal for the onslaught of Golems, plus the Druid player might escape our lethal range with cards like Feral Rage or occasionally Moonglade Portal. Praise Antonidas, Jade Druid isn’t as common as it was a few weeks ago and we are way more likely to encounter fair matchups on ladder!
You need cards that can prevent incoming damage or trade early on. Look for removal (Arcane Blast, Frostbolt, Forgotten Torch, Acidic Swamp Ooze) and cheap value minions (Mistress of Mixtures, Babbling Book, Doomsayer, Loot Hoarder).
Against Midrange / Slower Decks
You can afford to keep all the value cards, especially slower options like Babbling Book, Arcane Intellect, Water Elemental, and Loot Hoarder!
(data from Tempo Storm)
- vs Aggro Shaman: 65%
- vs Midrange Shaman: 65%
- vs Miracle Rogue: 60%
- vs Pirate Warrior: 55%
- vs Control Warrior: 55%
- vs Reno Warlock: 50%
- vs Dragon Priest: 40%
- vs Jade Druid: 25%
The Variant Definer
Reno and Kazakus are the cards that define the highlander archetype, but Alexstrasza is the single card that changes the whole gameplan! If you play her, your list probably aims to finish off the opponent with burn spells after reducing their life total. If you don’t play Alex, you probably are running a more minion-oriented deck that can still find lethal with burn, but focuses much more on board presence. The minion version will probably play Medivh, the Guardian in this slot instead.
One of the most unique card designs in Hearthstone, and the reason highlander (a.k.a. singleton) decks even appeared in the metagame. Core against both faster and slower decks!
The newest addition and likely the card that pushed Reno decks from mediocre to top tier. The Potion he creates is very flexible and allows you to adjust to the current situation in many different ways. Just remember when using the late-game resurrection option to avoid bring back your own Doomsayer!
Do you have a card with a cool Battlecry? Awesome, let’s make that double! See the Combo sections below, but the best is probably Brann + Kazakus + Manic Soulcaster. It’s almost always correct to hold Brann until you can play more minions immediately after – don’t just run him out on curve!
Great 4-drop with only one downside – a vulnerability to Shadow Word: Pain. Definitely worth playing though as it has great potential to trade two or even three for one, as well as completely shutting down opponents who want to attack with their heroes.
Our burn suite. Best to keep them for finishing off an opponent, but you can definitely use these spells to remove threats if you find yourself overwhelmed. The Freeze Mage version also plays Ice Lance and the minion-based variant plays Cabalist’s Tome to get some additional burn.
The ultimate survival tool, even more important than Reno! Having Ice Block up allows you to play much more proactively and still have a chance to come back if something goes wrong.
Removals and board wipes. Each fits a different role, but all serve the same purpose overall: to minimize the incoming damage and let us survive to late-game.
The value-generating cards and card draw effects. Inclusion of some may depend on the variant you play, but all of them fill the same role, which is to keep your hand full of mystery cards that your opponent can’t entirely expect or predict.
The healing effects. Every Reno Mage variant plays a different combination of these cards, but these are all the top=tier options I’ve seen being used. Which – and how many – of them you put into your deck depends on how defensive you need to be for the current metagame!
The situational defensive minions. Dirty Rat has awesome potential for destroying your opponent’s combo when it pulls a big minion card into Doomsayer or Mind Control Tech. Bruiser is a great body that helps you stabilize the board early and Mind Control Tech can not only flip the board advantage, but completely change the flow of battle when it steals something important key. More spell-oriented variants might skip some of these options to find room for more burn. Twilight Flamecaller is good additional mass removal attached to a body, which might be useful if you face too much aggro!
Additional card draw with minor upsides. You might want these to cycle faster against aggressive decks to find the exact cards you need as soon as possible. Mostly seen in the Freeze Mage variant.
Similarly to Babbling Book, these cards give us additional cards that our opponent can’t predict. Having more options in hand is obviously good, but all three of these have minimal immediate board impact and are borderline unplayable in aggro matchups!
Played mostly in burn-oriented lists alongside Alexstrasza, but I’m sure that’s not universally true! Antonidas definitely has great potential and can become a solo win condition, but you might find it hard to combo him with enough low cost spells in one turn. After all, you might need to use cards like Arcane Blast early in the game for removal!
Used exclusively in more spell/burn-oriented lists (especially in combination with cards like Alexstrasza, Archmage Antonidas and Pyroblast), because it unlocks the ability to do crazy damage in one turn. Definitely an interesting pick, but is very niche in its application!
Blizzard + Doomsayer (8 mana)
Bread and butter of every Freeze Mage – lock down the board and drop a Doomsayer to wipe your enemy’s board presence!
Brann + Kazakus (7 mana)
The new go-to value play, especially when you’re able to pick two potent 10-mana potions to swing the game in control matchups, or double up on one of the cheaper potions to stabilize against aggro.
Manic Soulcaster + Reno / Kazakus / Inkmaster (7 – 10 mana, varies)
Adds an efficient body to board while also putting another copy of a key card back in our deck for even more value!
Dirty Rat + Mind Control Tech (5 mana)
A dirty trick to fight for board presence against aggressive decks or to screw up your opponent’s combos in slower matchups. Important to note that Dirty Rat does not trigger Battlecry effects, so he effectively neuters many crucial minions!
Brann + Kazakus + Manic Soulcaster (10 mana)
The ultimate value play, allowing you to pick two Kazakus potions immediately with at least two more in your deck. This should be an autowin in most control matchups, and at the same time lets you be much more flexible with your potion choices (sometimes picking the 1-mana potion is correct)! However, since you put two copies of Kazakus into your deck, this disables Inkmaster Solia and Reno Jackson until you’ve drawn at least one!
Dirty Rat + Blizzard + Doomsayer (10 mana)
Annihilate your opponent’s board and hand at the same time! Especially against an enemy who is holding one key finisher turn after turn, this one is certain to seal the game.
Reno Mage looks like the hot new control deck, with its popularity rising dramatically in the last few weeks. It’s definitely an interesting deck to pick up since it offers a significantly different playstyle than the other Kabal classes. While Reno Priest (especially Reno Dragon Priest) focuses on board presence and Reno Warlock tries to stall until the Leeroy combo, Reno Mage is built to finish off your opponent with a deadly barrage of burn spells and high-value minions. Players who have previously enjoyed decks like Freeze Mage or Echo Mage will definitely have a good time with the Reno variant, but I strongly advise everyone to give it a shot and try something a little bit different; this potent list is sure to stick around!
I gladly welcome any comments and feedback, so please feel free to let me know what you’d like to read about next time and consider booking a lesson if this guide helped. Good luck in your games! 🙂