In-Depth Turn Analysis: RenoLock Comeback
In-Depth Turn analysis was a series started by Smashthings. Sadly, he quit Hearthstone almost a year ago and so the series was dropped. I’ve decided to give it a try one more time, because I remember that it was quite popular.
If you aren’t familiar with the series, don’t worry – it’s quite easy. Just imagine you’re in an interesting or difficult spot in one of your matches. What if, instead of having 75 seconds to analyze everything, your time would be unlimited? Decisions in Hearthstone are often very chaotic. You might be driven by intuition (which isn’t always right), you might miss something, you might make a big misplay, because you didn’t have time to analyze everything.
In order to take most from the series, before checking out my analysis, you should think about the scenario yourself. What do you think is the best play? Comparing your answers to my analysis can then teach you something or even spark a discussion if you disagree with my points. Feel free to comment if you do!
So before I start, I have one request for you guys. If you stumble upon such a scenario during one of your games, please make a screenshot and send it to me (email@example.com) and it get featured in next episode of the series!
In this episode I’ll focus on RenoLock. After the recent nerfs it has became more popular again, with a lot of pros playtesting different builds. The deck was close to being competitively viable for the last few months, but a few nerfs to other popular classes might have changed its position quite significantly. When everyone around you gets nerfed and you don’t, you come out ahead.
And so, I’ve decided to showcase two different situations. Screenshots were taken directly from the streams – first from StrifeCro (October 3rd) and second from Thijs (October 5th). StrifeCro is playing the N’Zoth version of RenoLock while Thijs plays the combo version with Leeroy Jenkins. So while the core of the deck is similar, there will be a few different things to consider in either case. Let’s start.
P.S. Since there are two different situations, I’ll try two different approaches to analysis. In first one I’ll take only the 3 best lines of play and analyze them more carefully, explaining every one as best as I can. In second one, I will take much more different lines of play, some of which aren’t even good. But because of that, each will be shorter and more to the point. Tell me which one you like more so I will continue with that one in the future.
N’Zoth RenoLock vs Dragon Warrior
I’ll start with the basics before I start the analysis. You can see the StifeCro’s deck on the right (it should be clear after you enlarge the image). His enemy is playing a Dragon Warrior. We aren’t sure what tech cards he run, whether he runs The Curator or Deathwing, so we basically have to play around as many things as possible.
Cards used so far:
Dragon Warrior: Fiery War Axe, Faerie Dragon, Fierce Monkey, Ravaging Ghoul, Kor'kron Elite, Twilight Guardian x2, Azure Drake x2, Grommash Hellscream
RenoLock: Brann Bronzebeard, Demonwrath, Shadow Bolt, Twilight Drake, Cult Apothecary, Cairne Bloodhoof, Siphon Soul
So a few key points when it comes to this match. Warrior hasn’t used any Executes yet. He has gone through both Azure Drakes, so he should be running out of cards relatively soon, unless he gets The Curator. Since Grommash Hellscream was already played, the Warrior’s burst is severely limited. On the other hand, RenoLock has a lot of different ways left to deal with multiple minions, but would struggle against single, big targets. N'Zoth, the Corruptor can be played next turn, but it’s not getting too much value – it brings back only a single minion, Cairne Bloodhoof. Reno Jackson is in the hand already – but the main question is if it’s better to keep it or play it right away?
So, what’s the play?
Refreshment Vendor + Defender of Argus
This play is very simple, but it works quite well here. By playing Refreshment Vendor and Defender of Argus, you accomplish a few things. First of all – you put a big Taunt wall. With a 5/6 and 4/6 Taunts, enemy has no way to get through them on the board. He can kill only a single one, which would still leave you in a favorable position. Second important thing is that you get up to 19 health, meaning that unless enemy gets through both Taunts and hits you with Azure Drake, you’re out of range of a buffed Drakonid Crusher. That’s a big deal, because with Siphon Soul and Shadow Bolt gone, it might be hard to clear it. The only way to do so from the hand is Twisting Nether, but you’d prefer to keep that for a last effort board flood or another big minion – or Deathwing. Either of those might be dropped any time soon.
Good thing is that a single Execute doesn’t punish this move. Even something like a Ravaging Ghoul + Execute means that you still have one Taunt left and it doesn’t get killed for free. Enemy would really need a very specific hand, like Ghoul and two Executes or maybe Ghoul + Blood to Ichor + Execute to really get ahead on the board after this move. But with Hellfire in the hand, you could just clear his whole board easily and play Reno, thus being ahead again.
It would be extremely hard for the enemy to clear your board at this point. However, this play might get punished if enemy drops Ragnaros the Firelord. Enemy would have a 75% chance to kill one of the minions and 50% chance to hit a great target (one of the Taunts). If Ragnaros hit one of the two best targets, you also wouldn’t have a good way to clear it. You could throw away Twisting Nether, but that would also hurt your board. Maybe Shadowflame + Hellfire would also do it (if Rag didn’t hit the 5 attack minion), but that’s really not optimal. Both moves also give your enemy an initiative, and that’s what you want to take away from the Dragon Warrior.
Another thing is that you prefer to play Argus when you also benefit from the buff, not only from the Taunt. In this scenario, the benefit you get from the buff is very small. You still can’t make any trade on the board and opponent still has to throw both minions into any of your Taunted guys to kill it.
Overall it’s a really solid line of play. It plays around a lot of things, it doesn’t show the enemy that you have the Reno in your hand already (so he can still think that face rush strategy is good), it’s hard to punish and it doesn’t unnecessarily use any of the crucial cards that could be much better later in the match.
Generally, clearing the opponent’s board is what you always want to do if you can do that efficiently. With no Grommash Hellscream for Warrior, you don’t have to play around a big, reliable burst from the hand. It means that as long as you constantly clear the board, you win the game.
With 3 AoEs in your hand, it should be quite easy to clear the board. However, one of them – Hellfire – doesn’t really cut it. So when it comes to board clear, you’re left with two options – Shadowflame and Twisting Nether. Bot clear the board completely.
I’ll start with the weaker play first – Twisting Nether. That’s not really a great Nether. While you probably won’t use it on more than 2-3 minions anyway, as the Warrior is already running low on cards and flooding the board from his side is pretty unlikely, you pass the initiative back to him. You don’t do anything else. Not only that – you also waste your only big removal left. With Nether gone, you will have really hard time dealing with Ragnaros the Firelord and it might be almost impossible to kill the Deathwing.
The other line is actually a much better one. With Shadowflame, you can clear the whole board and you still have 5 mana to develop. The sad part is that you don’t have any strong 4-5 mana minion in your hand, so it’s impossible to get a meaningful board presence at the same time. Yes, you can drop Refreshment Vendor, but a 3/5 body isn’t amazing against late game Dragon Warrior. But, with Doomsayer in the hand, you have a huge chance to force Warrior to pass his turn. Life Tap (to check whether there might be a better play) + Shadowflame + Doomsayer means you clear the board and you set up for the next turn Tap + Reno or possibly N’Zoth (it’s not the best one, but you still get 2 big bodies you can efficiently trade with).
Good side of this play is that if you actually force Warrior to do nothing, you can get ahead massively. The best way to clear Doomsayer from the Warrior’s side would be Fiery War Axe + Kor'kron Elite, but one copy of each card is already gone. And I’m not sure if Warrior would actually want to do that. He doesn’t know you have Reno in your hand. From his perspective, wasting 7 damage on a minion when you’re at 13 health might be a misplay. Another way is some Execute move, but that would require Warrior to have an activator, an Execute AND a follow-up. There are two worst case scenarios here. First one is Blood to Ichor + Execute + a big minion (Drakonid Crusher would be devastating). The second one is 50/50 Ragnaros roll. Warrior, seeing that passing the whole turn 10 will probably lose him the game, might go for the Ragnaros and hope that it hits Doomsayer. Even if it doesn’t, however, he still gets you down to 5 health, which is in range of a lot of things. Either of those two cases would probably force you to play Twisting Nether. Now you would have only Hellfire left in your hand, no big removal and Warrior would have an initiative.
So to sum things up – Twisting Nether is not a good play. Tap + Shadowflame + Doomsayer is way better, if you clear the board and Doomsayer goes off, you basically win the game. You still have Twisting Nether for a big minion, you have Reno to get back to full life, you can slam N’Zoth if you think that you might need bigger bodies on the board. But there are still some ways it can get punished. And getting punished puts you in a really bad spot in case enemy drops yet another big minion or just slams Deathwing.
Reno Jackson + Doomsayer
In that scenario, Reno is 15 points of healing and a 4/6 body on the board. Which is fine. I would probably immediately go for that play if I was at 10 mana and could also play either Shadowflame or Defender of Argus. But with only 9 mana, there are only 2 things you can do with Reno. One is Tap (before playing Reno, of course) and second one is following with the Doomsayer.
Tapping before playing Reno is always solid – it gets you one card further into the deck, it means that Reno heals you for 2 more. But in this case, I think like Doomsayer should be a follow-up.
It might seem weird for someone who doesn’t play RenoLock a lot. Not only enemy can clear that Doomsayer on the board, but if he ignores it, you lose even more power than he does. But it makes things really awkward for the Warrior. If he decides to clear the Doomsayer – he wasted 7 damage that would go into the face otherwise and didn’t clear anything else this way. So Doomsayer would be kinda like “gain 7 Armor” for 2 mana in that case. On the other hand, if Warrior decided to leave out the Doomsayer and go face, it would end up with him dealing 7 more damage and clearing your board, but it would basically mean he passes the turn. Empty board initiative would go back to you. That’s a great N'Zoth, the Corruptor set up, even though N’Zoth isn’t that amazing. You still end up with 23 health and with 4 more healing in your hand you shouldn’t really be dying any time soon.
Another thing is that it potentially sets up a great Shadowflame turn. If enemy clears Doomsayer (either with minions or with Execute) and develops more things, you can just Shadowflame next turn and potentially clear his whole board while still have 6 more mana to develop (e.g. Tap + Refreshment Vendor). If enemy decides to clear Doomsayer and drop Ragnaros, it would set up for a great Twisting Nether.
I think that this play is the safest out of 3. Not only you immediately heal up to full, but you also force enemy to clear Doomsayer or else the whole board gets cleared with initiative on your side. I think that it plays around most of the stuff and even though it seems weird, it has the highest chance to be successful.
P.S. Instead of Reno Jackson, it was also possible to go for the Defender of Argus + Doomsayer (Argus only the 4/5, leave Doomsayer without Taunt). However, this play gets punished by Execute much more heavily. If Warrior has an Activator + Execute (which is kinda likely given that he hasn’t used any yet), he could get rid of the Taunt, kill the Doomsayer and you’d be left with only Argus on the board, which isn’t threatening any trades or a good Shadowflame. You might be forced to clear things with Twisting Nether, which you want to keep for the Rag/Deathwing. So I feel like this move is similar to Reno + Doomsayer, but it’s easier to punish.
StrifeCro ended up going for the Play #3 – Reno Jackson + Doomsayer. And enemy Warrior responded with ignoring the Doomsayer and going for the face with 2 of the minions. StrifeCro ended up winning that game. I think that in this case all 3 plays were close to each other, so it’s kinda hard to decide which one is the best one.
Personally, I would go for Play #1 – Refreshment Vendor + Defender of Argus and I think that Play #2 – Board Clear was the weakest one in that spot. So I rate them this way: 1 —> 3 —> 2.
The play StrifeCro has chosen is the safest one. It’s really hard for the enemy to punish it and even if he has the perfect hand, it can still be countered by Twisting Nether or something next turn. My biggest issue with this play, however, is showing your cards. You show the enemy that you have Reno in your hand, so he can adjust his play style accordingly. Him not knowing that might result in some misplays down to road. Misplays from your side, it’s not a misplay from his side. When you play this matchup as a Dragon Warrior, you often have to assume that they have no Reno and try to rush them down. So instead of doing an efficient trade or something, he might have tried the face rush strategy, which would obviously fail. 19 health you end up with is still very safe and most importantly it’s still out of range of Crusher. So the strategy is still safe, hard to punish etc. but gets a benefit of not showing your cards.
Going for an immediate board clear here would probably be the weakest strategy. Twisting Nether is terrible here. Shadowflame + Doomsayer could still be a solid option, but it could be punished most easily. A 50/50 Rag shot or Ichor/Slam + Execute + Drakonid Crusher would force you to play Twisting Nether, which would once again give the Warrior initiative and leave you with no big board clears.
Combo RenoLock vs N’Zoth Paladin
Thijs is playing Combo RenoLock. His enemy is playing N’Zoth Paladin. To be honest, we wouldn’t be sure of that if not for the Barnes that pulled out N'Zoth, the Corruptor on the Paladin’s side. Since he didn’t play any Deathrattle yet, it might be the probably more popular Anyfin Can Happen Paladin – and you play those matchups quite differently. This case is different than the last one. Last time there was no great way to clear the board and every play had some clear downsides. This time, there are few days to deal with the board, but deciding which one is the best while keeping future turns in mind is important.
Cards used so far:
Paladin: Doomsayer x2, Equality, Loot Hoarder, Wild Pyromancer, Aldor Peacekeeper, Barnes (spawned N’Zoth), Truesilver Champion, Solemn Vigil x2, Ragnaros the Firelord
Warlock: Acidic Swamp Ooze, Dark Peddler (got Shifter Zerus, played it as Mounted Raptor on t3), Brann Bronzebeard, Earthen Ring Farseer, Sen'jin Shieldmasta, Stampeding Kodo, Mountain Giant
And again a few key points. Ragnaros is the first big minion Warrior has played, so there will be a few more to remove in the future. Thijs is playing a combo version and he has all the combo pieces in the hand already. Once he gets Emperor Thaurissan, he threatens 20 damage from the hand, so trying to keep enemy below that value is pretty important. Paladin has used one Equality yet, so baiting a second one might be a huge deal – it would let the Warlock develop as much as he wants without worrying about overextending. Life total of Warlock is not that important, since Paladin has no way to burst him down anyway – meaning that potentially taking another Rag hit should not be lethal. Thijs is at 10 cards, so tapping first to look for something else isn’t an option.
Probably the most simple solution. It’s one of the biggest targets in the deck and that’s what Siphon Soul is for. The safest play.
- Can be followed by immediate board presence in form of Refreshment Vendor or Life Tap + Doomsayer to potentially set up the next turn initiative.
- Rag is one of the best targets in the Paladin’s deck to Siphon Soul.
- It doesn’t use any of the combo pieces OR Sylvanas, meaning that both can be left for the future turns.
- You want to keep Siphon Soul for as long as you can, as an “emergency removal”. You can always clear something with it, while you might not get a good opportunity to clear a big minion another way later. You can also combo it with Doomsayer later against opponent’s Sylvanas.
- You don’t develop anything significant to immediately pressure the enemy and force him to answer.
Sylvanas Windrunner + Power Overwhelming
This play is a little more fancy. While it uses two cards instead of 1 and you can’t develop anything from your hand after, it steals the Rag, leaving you with an 8/8 on the board that enemy has to answer.
- You end up both dealing with a Rag and having a Rag of your own.
- You save up Siphon Soul for when you really need it, while Sylvanas might not get a guaranteed good steal later.
- It might be hard for the enemy to deal with the Rag. It might bait the second Equality, which is good for you, because now you can play as many minions as you want without worrying about a board wipe.
- If Rag survives, copying it with Faceless Manipulator might be a great play. It enemy can’t kill one Rag, two on the board might finish the game very quickly.
- You need to use one of your combo pieces, so you no longer have 20 (24 with Soulfire) damage available – the combo is now 12 (16) damage max.
- Sylvanas is one of the key cards in this matchup and you prefer to steal one of the Deathrattles (Tirion Fordring is the best one) or save her for a Shadowflame move after N’Zoth.
Just Sylvanas Windrunner
This play is even more fancy. Instead of immediately stealing Rag, you might just play Sylvanas and make things awkward for the Paladin.
- N’Zoth Paladin won’t likely have a way to flood the board to counter her – basically most of the minions he plays from the hand are also okay targets for Sylvanas.
- If Rag misses Sylvanas, you can set up a steal next turn with Demonwrath or , depending on what Paladin plays.
- It saves up a combo piece – Power Overwhelming.
- Just a single Hero Power might punish this plan. While unlikely, Paladin might have a few small minions in his hand that you also don’t want to steal.
- You take unnecessary risk – your Sylvanas might be completely useless if it steals a 1/1 or something. The risk/reward is not high enough.
- You still use your Sylvanas instead of saving it up for Tirion or Shadowflame and you might not even get any value out of her.
This play is not a guaranteed kill on the Rag. It’s also delayed and enemy can potentially counter it. But if it goes off, you get a huge advantage – you save your other removals AND combo pieces.
- Doomsayer isn’t a great card in this matchup and if you have a chance to kill a Rag with it, I wouldn’t blame you taking it.
- If enemy has no way to kill Doomsayer, he also skips the whole turn. If he can’t guarantee killing it, developing more minions would be pretty foolish – after all, they could also die if Rag misses.
- If you also drop Refreshment Vendor or Reno Jackson (it’s not necessary, but it utilizes the mana better), this play might have 2/3 chance to work out, which should be good enough. And it it fails – you don’t lose that much.
- It still has a chance to fail. If Rag ends up shooting a Doomsayer, you still have to deal with it and you lost a card for no reason.
- It gets punished quite heavily by Stampeding Kodo and some Control Paladin lists run it. Kodo means that Paladin develops the board even further while Rag has a 50/50 chance to clear your 3/5, leaving you with no board and putting you much further behind.
- Doomsayer + Siphon Soul is actually a solid counter to the N’Zoth turn if you don’t have anything else (two others are Sylv + Shadowflame and Twisting Nether). You can play Doomsayer, Siphon Soul opponent’s Sylvanas and the Doomsayer will proc at the start of his turn. It does a similar job to the Twisting Nether, except enemy can’t attack with anything that is spawned from the Deathrattles.
Leeroy Jenkins + Demonwrath
With this line of play, you get a quite nice clear, but now you drop your combo win condition completely and rely on the Lord Jaraxxus to carry you.
- You deal with Rag quite clearly while saving your other removals.
- It’s possible to set up a Doomsayer after – hopefully enemy will be forced to skip his turn.
- It would work quite nicely if it wasn’t a matchup in which burst is useful, but it is. A combo win condition is important and pretty easy to pull off at some point. It’s your main win condition in this matchup and while some other plays do sacrifice one piece, Leeroy is the basic and most important one – without it, there is no combo, no 10+ damage burst from the hand.
- There is just no need to throw away that win condition while there are so many other ways to deal with Rag available.
A high risk, high reward play. While you sacrifice one combo piece, you can immediately flip the game around. But if you end up losing the 50/50, you might be in a bad spot.
- If you win the coin flip, you’re in a great spot. You’ve used a single card to deal with opponent’s Rag and develop one of your own. And you can still develop a Refreshment Vendor, getting you even further ahead on the board.
- Just like with the Sylvanas + PO play, developing Rag might make things awkward for the enemy. Rag is hard thing to remove for the Paladin and it might bait a second Equality.
- Even if you miss opponent’s Rag, his copy also has a chance to miss yours – it’s not a guaranteed fail if you lose a coin flip.
- If Rag hits face and the enemy doesn’t heal or Taunt up, a lost coin flip might still set up for a potential lethal. Paladin would be left at 13 health. Leeroy + PO is 10 damage, so a Hellfire or Soulfire draw could be lethal.
- You use a very important combo piece, reducing your potential burst from 20 (24 with Soulfire) to 10 (14).
- The play, while having a high reward, is also very risky. If you miss it and enemy hits it, you end up in a bad spot. While yes, face hit sets up for a potential lethal, it’s the Control Paladin we’re talking about. It’s pretty unlikely that he won’t have a way to heal or Taunt up.
Thijs ended up going for the Play #2 – Sylvanas + Power Overwhelming and ultimately won the game. Just like I’ve suspected, it turned out that enemy didn’t have a way to immediately kill it OR didn’t want to waste the second Equality, leaving Rag intact. And so, next turn Thijs copied his Rag with Faceless Manipulator, dropping his combo win condition. Enemy responded with Equality. Meaning that Thijs had a free hand to develop at this point, but a Tirion followed by N’Zoth would probably lose him the game.
I’ll start with the plays that I think are weak. Play #3 – Just Sylvanas Windrunner and play #5 – Leeroy + Demonwrath. First play is high risk, but not high reward. It basically saves the Power Overwhelming and risks stealing a 1/1 instead of Ragnaros. Second throws away the win condition for no reason whatsoever. It’s okay to use combo pieces outside of the combo, but when it’s necessary or you actually gain something from it. This play doesn’t develop the board, doesn’t put you in a great position and isn’t even the only way to deal with Rag.
Then, there are two plays that are risky, but if they work, they put you in a pretty good spot. Those are Play #4 – Doomsayer and Play #6 – Faceless Manipulator. Both of those plays are solid and I might even go for them if I was a risky player. Doomsayer play might make you trade a Doomsayer for a Rag AND give you board initiative, which is amazing for you. Second play, if it works, might put you far ahead on the board and pretty much win the game if enemy has no Equality.
Last two plays are most safe, and so probably the best. Play #1 – Siphon Soul and play #2 – Sylvanas + Power Overwhelming both immediately deal with the Ragnaros threat and both guarantee to put you ahead on the board. They have the lowest chance of getting punished. And the thing is – this matchup is in RenoLock’s favor if he doesn’t take unnecessary risk. Between Leeroy combo, Jaraxxus and good board clears for N’Zoth, you should win the game if you play safe. If it was some other matchup that required taking risks in order to win, the situation might have been different.
Thijs ended up picking the Sylvanas Windrunner + Power Overwhelming move, but I’d just play Siphon Soul. There are few reasons behind that. First of all – I feel like Sylvanas is one of the best cards in this matchup. If you manage to steal opponent’s Tirion Fordring, you pretty much won the game. It means that you can easily drop the Acidic Swamp Ooze to destroy Truesilver Champion (Thijs already did that earlier). It also means that you don’t have to save Spellbreaker for Tirion and you can Silence Cairne or Sylvanas or even your own minion debuffed by Aldor Peacekeeper.
While Siphon Soul doesn’t develop a huge minion immediately – and that’s what Thijs have counted on to carry him – I feel like that both Sylvanas and Power Overwhelming might be more useful in the future. If Shadowflame was already used, though, I’d definitely go for the Sylvanas + PO, as the Shadowflame is the main reason to keep her around.
That’s all folks. I know that neither of those scenarios was incredibly hard and there were some easy play available in both cases, I’ve felt like starting with something moderately easy and the deck that I know really well myself. I wanted to showcase that even turns that aren’t incredibly hard might have a lot of decision making. If you would make a different play in either of those cases, please say what would you do in the comments so we can discuss that.
And I remind you once again that you can send screenshots with your own positions (firstname.lastname@example.org) – if this one becomes more popular, I might make a full revival of the series and make such posts regularly. And this way you could make things easier for me (I won’t have to look around for positions) and you could be featured at the same time!
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comment section below. If you want to be up to date with my articles, you can follow me on Twitter.
Good luck on the ladder and until next time!