Welcome to the guide to Reno Mage! If you made the wise choice of not playing Shaman this season but instead chose to play its kryptonite, the Reno Mage, you are at the right place! As we move through the guide, you should be able to get a solid grasp of the archetype and take on the entire ladder (even Druids and Priests)!
The guide will consist from the Introduction (We are going to be rich!), which will present what Reno Mage is to begin with, illustrated Mulligan which will clarify what one should try to get at the start of the game, Strategy guide which will explain how the deck works but also contain two special strategy aspect parts, first two explaining the approach to the Kazakus Potion Brewing and the Ping, while the third one will answer FAQ that the community has for this deck, the Match-ups, which will cover the popular match-ups and what are the key cards for victory against them, and finally, Tech Choices, which should help you adjust the deck to the meta that you are facing at any point.
We’re gonna be rich!
For a very long time, playing Mage meant that you were most likely playing either a Mech Mage or a Tempo Mage (with exception to Freeze Mage players), but nowadays, Mage is considered a slower deck which relies a lot more in controlling the board and not simply focusing on the tempo early on. The Reno Mage is currently one of the most successful decks in the ladder which doesn’t run Small-time Buccaneer or Patches in it, and it’s the choice of many pros because of how successful the deck is against Shamans and Warriors. Reno Mage is a deck that is built around strong and cheap early spells and minions, whilst transiting into solid mid game with minions like Kazakus, Azure Drake, Water Elemental and Emperor Thaurissan, all whilst having a decent range of both single-target and board clear damaging spells. Whether you just managed to gather dust for your final card additions to the deck or have played Reno Mage before, this guide should give you insight and teach you how to play the deck properly. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Mulligan for this deck varies quite a lot, and it doesn’t cut it to just write it out for Aggro and Control so the Mulligan for Reno Mage will be based on the classes you face. Please note that this is dedicated to the meta in Season 35 (February 2017) and it is open to change at some point, so it might not be as accurate in 4 or 5 seasons unless updated. On the other hand, it won’t be divided into “With Coin” and “Without Coin” as the difference is usually too small to be noted.
The strategy part of the guide will be divided into three parts. First one will cover the general approach to the deck, second will cover the Potion Brewing where the handling of Kazakus in different situations will be elaborated on as well as the ping (aka. your hero power) and the third will answer some of the frequently asked questions by the players still new to the archetype.
The approach to different decks on ladder differs a lot as it can be seen from the mulligan. If you face one of the aggressive decks like Aggro Shaman or Pirate Warrior, you need to calculate a lot and use everything at your disposal in the best way possible.
The dream starts are:
Against Aggro: T1 Mistress of Mixtures, T2 Doomsayer, T3 Volcanic Potion, T4 Kazakus
Against Control: T1 Babbling Book, T2 Ping, T3 Kabal Courier/Arcane Intellect//Brann (if empty board and low chance of removal)/, T4 Water Elemental/Kazakus (if Brann played before)
There are some exceptions to the “always drop Doomsayer on turn 2” rule and that would be Renolock where you want to optimally drop it right before your opponent drops Twilight Drake or Mountain Giant. Mountain Giant can be dropped on turn 4 earliest but the Drake can come out earlier. The early removal spells like Arcane Blast, Frostbolt or Forgotten Torch should be used at will against early aggression.
As the mid game comes by and you are playing against a fast deck you should have board control by playing a Volcanic Potion and having a good Kazakus potion in hand. If neither of those happen, the chances are good you will lose, especially if you don’t have Reno in hand. Against slower decks it’s all about giving yourself access to as many options as possible with the help of cards like Arcane Intellect and Cabalist’s Tome. With that being said count your cards and make sure you don’t overdraw yourself. Doomsayer is good to be used against slower decks if you see that they are trying to go for board presence, just keep the fact in mind that that Doomsayer might die to easy removal spells like Shadow Word: Pain. Try to take the offensive on the board by summoning minions with Kazakus’ potion for example as they have an easy way of summoning/buffing minions so you will have a hard time winning only with your big removal spells. Try to save the burst spells against decks like Renolock unless you really have to use them as that one turn kill burst for 10+ damage can always come in handy when you face Jaraxxus, Eredar Lord of the Burning Legion.
The late game doesn’t really exist against fast decks as most of them concede after they hear “We’re gonna be rich!” but if they by some chance stick around board clears from Kazakus or Flamestrike and Alexstrasza’s “heal” usually seal the deal. Against slower decks like Priest or Druid, the game needs to be lead by you, but if you didn’t manage to hold the board with your minions, usually a Brann + Kazakus combination can pull you out of the minion mess. More on Kazakus’ potions in the Strategy Aspect below.
Strategy Aspect I & II: Potion Brewing 101 & The Ping
Welcome to your class to brewing potions! As we all know, Kazakus is probably one of the most versatile cards in Hearthstone right now, a card that enables you to craft your own potion according to the current state of the game! Even though there are many possibilities for potion making, there are only about 3 potion combinators that are really good for different kinds of situations. Every combination should depend on what you are facing right now. Is it an Aggro Shaman? Or another Reno Mage?
Let’s go through the costs first as it’s something that you face with first when you are given your first discover. 1 mana, 5 mana or 10 mana? As everything that is connected to Kazakus, this depends on what you are facing. Let’s divide that into vs Aggro and vs Control.
If you are facing a fast deck like Aggro Shaman or Pirate Warrior, and you are being pressured a lot and in need a panic button, go for the 1 mana potion. The problem with the 1 mana potions is that they can’t deal with a lot of minions that the aggro decks throw out. Unless you get a combo like Felbloom (Deal 2 damage to all) + Heart of Fire (Deal 3 damage to a single target (will be referred to as ST from now on)). That one can help you a lot. If your opponent didn’t manage to throw out a lot of minions though and there is still some breathing space, then go for the 5 mana spell. There are simply a lot more options to pick from, and some of the best ones are Felbloom (4 damage to all), Stonescale Oil (Gain 7 armor) and Heart of Fire (Deal 5 damage to ST) and even Kingsblood (draw 2 cards) isn’t that bad as it lets you fish for that Reno Jackson more.
Against Control it really depends on who is the oppressor. Are you trying to rush him down or playing a slow value-based game? If you are playing a long value game then always go for the 10 mana potion as it doesn’t give that much tempo but it gives a whole lot of value. On the other hand, if you want to put yourself in the position of the oppressor, then a 5 mana potion can do the trick. Now, for the 5 mana aggressor potion, summoning minions is great. If you had a lot of minions that died already, Ichor of Undeath (summon 2 friendly minions that died this game) is amazing. If not, then Netherbloom (Summon a 5/5 demon) is great. Enforcing your board if you have one by giving it more HP with Goldthorn is also amazing.
Now, when it comes to 10 mana spells which should be usually taken if the game is very slow (e.g. against a Control Warrior or Dragon Priest), you should try to go for the similar effects that were mentioned for the 5 mana potion like Ichor of Undeath, Netherbloom and Goldthorn. If your opponent has a lot of minions on the board and especially if they run N’Zoth in their deck, Mystic Wool (AoE Polymorph) can bring a lot of value.
Potion combinations which are usually the worst (unless you build your deck around them) are Shadow Oil (add a random demon to your hand) and Icecap (freeze enemy minions) simply because other options will usually bring you more value. Also, don’t forget that there is a HIDE button on your screen that can help you decide what you need in a particular situation much easier.
As said before, in a lot of match-ups the mage should try to look at as many possible options available in a turn and the hero power which is also commonly referred to as “the ping” is a big part of this thought process. Later in the game one can use it a lot easier as there is almost always excess mana available but in the beginning that ping can even take a full turn worth of mana, and this is where one has to be highly aware of what can be expected from the opponent later so that the use of spells is optimized. Let’s take a look at an example.
What would you do here? Would you take out the Kabal Courier and try to go for a good spell to follow it up with or put down the Soulcaster as it’s a decent body that can bring down the 5/3 pirate? It’s a trick question, because none of these would be the optimal play.
But actually looking ahead and keeping in mind that most of the minions that Pirate Warriors have to throw out have 2 or less HP helps you set your opponent for that perfect value Volcanic Potion, which is going to immensely help you get to turn 6 which is as we all know the Reno turn after which the aggro decks usually just quit. Keeping the ping in mind is a very good approach to the deck.
Strategy Aspect III: FAQ
Should I play Dirty Rat early, why isn’t it in any Mulligans?
It does seem like a good early game taunt but it shouldn’t be played if you can’t deal with the pulled out minion straight away. The rat is usually played late game as you can use a removal spell right after you’ve pulled out the minions from your enemy’s hand.
When do I play Brann?
Try to save him and play him with one of the Battlecry cards like Kazakus, Refreshment Vendor, Dirty Rat (late game), or even Azure Drake. If you are really pressured early, get him out on turn 3 as he basically serves as a taunt.
Should I only save the Manic Soulcaster for Reno? When else should she be played?
Against control match-ups (Mage, Warlock, Priest, Druid, Paladin), you definitely should. If you see that your board is behind even playing her on turn 3 can be good as she has good base stats for a 3 mana card. The other cards that can be great to use her on besides Reno are Kazakus, Emperor Thaurissan and even Alexstrasza. Azure Drake could also be useful if you used most of the others already
When would you play Thalnos without any spells?
Usually in early game if you are stuck with him in your hand and you have almost none of your crucial anti-aggro spells or minions in sight. The sole cycle of the deathrattle effect can sometimes help a lot in fishing for what you need.
Against which classes should I really be conservative with my Fireball?
Usually against those that will require you to burst them down in one turn in order to win. Those are usually Renolocks who require bursting from 15 HP after they play Lord Jaraxxus, or Priests that you already lost the board to but still have a chance if you lower them down to 15 HP with Alexstrasza.
Is it okay to Polymorph a 5/5 minion?
If you know that the deck doesn’t have that many big threats to throw out anymore, then yes. You are probably going to be using your Polymorph on those that they threw out before though. Against warlocks, try to wait for Mountain Giants and Twilight Drakes, against Priests Drakonid Operative is a good target, against Shamans the Flamewreathed Faceless, and so on.
The key cards versus every match-up will also be presented as the cards that you should be PATIENT with and which should be dropped at just the right moment as they can turn the game in your favour easily. The decks from the first two tiers will be covered as the win rates for lower tiers are very hard to determine. The matchups will also be sorted by class. This time we are going to leave out the win rates as they are too hard to prove and the matchups will be described differently from before.
Aggro - Favorable Matchup - Shamans can be a bit more resourceful than Pirate Warriors when it comes to taking you down from 30 HP after you heal with Reno, so some other cards come into play and are important as well. Early on the game needs to be controlled by you with the help of Mistress of Mixtures, Doomsayer, Volcanic Potion and alike, with Kazakus also being a great deal of winning but also later cards like Firelands Portal and Flamestrike. Keep in mind when having Acidic Swamp Ooze in hand that if they run Jade cards, use it on any weapon. If you see none, they might also run Doomhammer.
Midrange Jade - Unfavourable Matchup - The bad side of any jade decks is that they will rarely run out of Jade Golems to spawn. They will just keep getting bigger whilst more and more out of the range of our main removal spells. Brann + Kazakus combo is crucial in this matchup as those 10 mana potions are arguably some of your best shots at winning. It’s important to keep in mind that they don’t run Flamewreathed Faclesses that you need to polymorph but Aya instead, who is a great polymorph target. Also, always keep in mind that they can Hex any big targets that you drop so make sure you always have a back-up plan. If you face a lot of them check the Tech Decisions section below as some changes to this decklist are necessary.
Pirate - Favorable Matchup - This deck is probably one of the best counters for Pirate Warrior thanks to Reno and a lot of early clears like Volcanic Potion and Arcane Blast. Kazakus’ potions are amazing against them and usually after the Reno turn they concede. Try to get Doomsayer out as soon as possible (coining out is usually not a bad idea) as they can take care of it on turn 3 easily if there are some minions on the board already.
Key cards: Reno Jackson, Kazakus, Doomsayer, Mistress of Potions
Miracle - Favourable Matchup - Rogues have a limit to how much damage they can deal with their outs. If that damage runs out and you simply heal with Reno once or even twice at that with the help of Manic Soulcaster, they don’t really stand a chance. Pay attention to your health, and try to be aware of how much damage they can throw at you with the mana they have at their disposal. They don’t run a lot of minions and those that they do throw out are easily removed with the likes of Forgotten Torch and Frostbolt. Save Polymorph for Edwin VanCleef.
Dragon Priest & Jade Druid - Unfavorable Matchups - Dragon Priest and Jade Druid are basically the nightmare of Reno Mage. With their high health minions and Priest’s Kabal Talonpriest who can boost it even more, the minions can very easily go out of range of your Flamestrike which leaves you with too many minions on the board to handle. With the help of Netherspite Historian and Jade Idol both decks can create a ton of minions while you slowly run out of removals that can handle them. Against both Brann should always be saved for Kazakus, as the potions are probably the only proper way to beat them. Even using Manic Soulcaster on Kazakus can be a good idea. If you face a lot of them check the Tech Decisions section below as some changes to this decklist are necessary.
Key cards: Kazakus, Brann Bronzebeard, Fireball
Reno - Favorable Matchup - By default Reno Mages should be able to beat Renolocks because of the amount of removals they have while warlocks are very limited on that front and focus on minion-based control a lot more. The double Reno that mage can pull off is usually way too much for Renolock to handle and Lord Jaraxxus, the card who can summon a lot of Infernals against which control decks have big problems, is usually no problem for Mage as 15 damage can be done pretty easily with the single-target spells. Saving Polymorph for their Mountain Giant or Twilight Drake is usually the game winner.
Reno - Even Matchup - In mirror matchups, it all comes down to who manages to get Brann + Kazakus out first and who holds board control with minions. If you manage to lure out their hard removals easy, you can consider yourself a winner already. Kabal Courier can help you get very slow cards which can help and the one who pops the other one’s Ice Block first is usually the winner. The amount of Fireballs you get from Archmage Antonidas is also of big importance.
If you do get to have big problems with the unfavourable matchups, there are loads of different ways you can change your deck. The one that has proven to be the most efficient is having Mind Control Tech in the deck instead of Refreshment Vendor. The Brann Bronzebeard + Dirty Rat + Mind Control Tech has shown in many occasions that it can take control of the board without a problem and turn the game against Jade decks and Dragon Priests.
If you feel like you are playing the fatigue game too much and you want to throw in a bit more burst power in the deck, trying out Inkmaster Solia + Pyroblast in the deck instead of Forbidden Flame and Refreshment Vendor. Even though this combo can help you burst down easier, a lot of people have found Solia to not be that impactful as she isn’t as big of a tempo turner as Firelands Portal is for example.
Author: David “Sigma” Bakic
Sigma is a Hearthstone and Overwatch content creator for Good Gaming. If you like to take a look at a fresh perspective on a wide range of topics while being hit with a marvelous burst of in-depth information, try giving one of his articles a read. You won’t regret it. He also streams very occasionally where he gives away a bunch of rewards all the time!