On my way back from Insomnia's Truesilver Championship as I type this!
As you might've already guessed, this article will touch on one of the most interesting cards we've seen come out of the new League of Explorers adventure: Reno Jackson. Of all the new tools given to us by Blizzard, this is probably the one people have experimented with more than any other, and its presence both on the Ladder and in Tournament settings goes a long way to prove its viability.
However, and this is the stance this article will take, the card may prove troublesome in the future; we are far from it being a real issue yet, but there is a definite possibility that the card warps deckbuilding in a way that doesn't make it a quirky and original card but a near-mandatory staple in the way that Dr. Boom has.
GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN'
And blood and bone
In tombs of old
We seek the gold."
First, we need to look at the way Reno Jackson functions mechanically: if the remainder of your deck consists of nothing but single copies of cards, Reno Jackson will heal you back up to your maximum Health. This doesn't imply that your deck must consist of nothing but single copies of cards during the deckbuilding phase but rather that you need to ensure you only have singles left when you play the card. Whether this is done through drawing the first copy of a card, discarding it through Fel Reaver-like effects, milling it or having a Deathlord pull it out doesn't matter.
As a result of this constraint and to avoid never drawing the first copy of a given card, most Reno Jackson decks end up going the Highlander route: there can only be one of each card in your deck to ensure Reno's consistency. For instance, Reno Warlocks usually substitute a copy of Hellfire for a copy of Demonwrath; they sometimes forsake the second copy of an Ironbeak Owl and put in a Spellbreaker instead, and you even see Refreshment Vendor make his way to the deck in lieu of another Antique Healbot. This leads to very interesting decklists which can vary wildly across the board.
In that way, a deck's usual game plan is sacrificed for the sole purpose of having Reno Jackson as a backup plan; that's how powerful the card is. An aggressive Hunter has been expending resources getting you to a measly 5 Health? No problem: back to full Health, and reset the game. Suddenly the Hunter, out of resources and card draw, needs to deal another wave of damage to you. However, this time you're not sitting on 30 Health with 1 Mana to start with: you have at least 6 Mana available since you played Reno Jackson, and your toolbox looks a lot more powerful than his. That's what Reno Does: it lets you reset the game at a further point in your curve, thus giving you the opportunity to capitalize on those mid-sized minions and get more freedom of action.
For any Reno Jackson deck, having him in their starting hand also influences the way they will play the game out; with a guaranteed way to get a full Health reset, they use their tools more liberally and let the damage pour in knowing they can negate it with a single move. When they do not find Reno Jackson though, the going can get rough. That's why Warlock is such a popular class to play him in; where Warriors and Paladins may not draw sufficiently to guarantee that they get it, Warlocks can Life Tap and, after playing Reno Jackson, negate all the damage from Life Tap as well as the damage dealt from their opponents.
In explorer words, if you wanna get rich you're gonna need to find the gold.
REDUNDANCY IN DESIGN WITH REDUNDANCY
'I'll have your best Whispey, please... Unless you've got something new. '
Neptulon to reply: 'Old friend, I've got just the thing for you.'
In Hearthstone, and in card games more generally, redundancy is a powerful deckbuilding tool; in fact, one could argue that a deck without redundancy isn't properly built because it doesn't "have a game plan". By redundancy I'm not speaking of the pejorative kind; oftentimes, the word is associated with "superfluous" and "irrelevant", when in reality its technical definition has more to do with the idea of a safeguard against failure. A great example would be the presence of both Sunfury Protector AND Defender of Argus in Handlock. A world in which they do not co-exist makes it a lot more difficult to count on a minion to give our Ancient Watchers and Molten Giants Taunt.
Do you really need Defender of Argus alongside Sunfury, or vice versa? No, not if you can guarantee that you'll draw the cards you need. But you can't, and that's where increasing and even sometimes doubling or tripling up the number of cards in your deck that have a similar purpose can help make your deck more consistent. Shaman used to have Lightning Bolt, Rockbiter Weapon, Lava Burst and Doomhammer to burst their opponents down. Then came Crackle, and later Lava Shock.
Prior to Crackle, you barely saw Lava Burst in anyone's deck list. This may be partly due to the simultaneous addition of Mechs alongside Crackle as a viable way to play an aggressive deck, but we can see that the bursty Shaman lists today do not need Mechs to function. In fact, their toolkit relies on cheap minions to wear down their opponent, followed by their more-than-likely draws of bursty spells. Crackle gave Shaman a redundant tool which, because it functioned similarly to Lava Burst, made it so you were twice as likely to find high damage spells during the game. That gave you a game plan. It is a rather dull truth, but it's important that I mention it to elaborate.
In that way, Reno Jackson needs redundancy to function in the current card pool; if you want to run Reno Jackson in a Rogue deck and are looking for a substitute to Backstab or Eviscerate, you're out of luck. Blade Flurry? You were already running Fan of Knives and I doubt Betrayal is going to cut it; oh, and don't even think about running a single Preparation. This illustrates why some classes have a hard time finding Reno Jackson archetypes that are consistent.
That is exactly the reason why Reno Jackson works so well in Warlock decks. You want some AoE damage spells to clear the board? Gul'dan's got what you need: Hellfire, Demonwrath, Shadowflame, Twisting Nether. Spot removal? No problem: Dark Bomb, Soulfire, Shadowbolt, Imp-losion, Siphon Soul, and possibly even Demonfire, Bane of Doom or Demonheart. Minions? You've got a large array of viable Neutrals to choose from, and some really solid class-specific ones. You can sprinkle in the new Dark Peddler, an Imp Gang Boss, and why not push it with a Voidcaller and a Doomguard since you have other demons anyway, hm?
As time passes more and more cards should come out that are, in a way or another, creating redundancy for a deck or another. And as these cards come out, Reno Jackson becomes more and more appealing to every class that gets access to an increasingly diverse toolkit.
It's just a matter of time before the gold rush hits.
- Malfurion Stormrage
You know what says 'Nope!' like a slap in the face as you unwrap a Christmas gift? Force of Nature, Innervate and double Savage Roar. This is an egregious way to look at a way to nullify Reno Jackson, but the exaggeration is only a mild one. One only has to look at the amount of damage Emperor Thaurissan allows you to pack in a single turn to realize that, unlike a Freeze Mage's Ice Block, Reno Jackson isn't quite as handsome a protector as we might be led to think. Long gone are the days of Alextrasza followed by an instant death when Reno is around, but this only gives us more reason to find ways to work around killing our opponent in a single turn.
There is a reason why Aggro Shaman is so powerful: it shuts down the current Reno decks and prevents them from getting much Tier 1 representation. Likewise for Malygos Warlock: chunky minions that dodge AoE and force an early Reno, with the inevitable pressure from burst through Soulfires, Darkbombs and Hellfires. Granted, Malygos Warlock isn't a combo deck in most cases, but the consistent amount of burst they can put together in a single turn is up there with Force of Nature/Savage Roar.
But what happens when Reno Jackson is highly viable elsewhere? Do we find ourselves in the position of having to counter a Reno Druid, a Reno Warrior, a Reno Paladin and a Reno Warlock all at once ? Is there a way to beat all these classes when they get Reno Jackson in half (or more) of their games? Life Tap damages the Warlock in the process of trying to get to their savior, but that isn't how Warriors and Priests would build a Reno Jackson deck. How does one find a non-Reno deck that can reliably beat a field like that, more so since they can modify their game plan by banking on Finley to give them a more adequate Hero Power. There may not be a solid alternative to Sludge Belcher right now, but there may come a time where Blizzard gets tired of the slimy bastard and gives us an improved version of Arcane Nullifier X-21 and we can suddenly cut the Stalaggs and Feugens of the world to make room for a more consistent defense. Likewise with Piloted Shredder making room for other 4-drops; the Reno archetypes eventually will be so consistent at drawing him that we'll have to bow down to gold-diggers harder than Kanye West.
I'm not asking you to picture the cards all the classes need to make the archetype viable; you only need to imagine that they have those cards. As time passes, the likelihood of these cards existing increases. It is a very oppressive thought. Nobody likes to be killed from 30 Health, or even from 20, but the rise of Reno Jackson would create an even bigger incentive to find and refine combo-heavy playstyles. But can combo decks even solve the issue? Maybe for a time, they can. But they won't beat Reno Warrior with the same deck they beat Reno Warlock with unless something magical occurs.
Knowing just how much Blizzard has proven to dislike the propensity for cards to enable absolutely unbelievable OTKs, I wouldn't be surprised if cards had to come out to counter Reno more effectively.
Hell, maybe we can finally play Reno Rogue with Beneath the Grounds!
MIND = BLASTED, DESIGN = LIMITED
But listen now to aunt Darkbane:
'Cower no more from the Highmane
Mind Blast is come to bring the pain.'
I've already touched on this topic before so I won't elaborate too much, but I'll still repeat some of the key points I brought up. In a nutshell, design limitation isn't an abnormality: every card limits design to a certain extent; heck, even Murloc Raider limits design. Realistically, you can't make a card like this: Lord of the Plains. That's not to say Murloc Raider is a problematic card, but I'm trying to illustrate the fallacy that some cards limit design and others don't. They all do, just on a very different level.
That being said, how much does Reno Jackson limit design, and more importantly how much design limitation do we think is acceptable? How many Dreadsteeds must you prevent yourself from designing as a Neutral card before you decide to
delete change the Warsong Commander? That's a question to which I have no answer (I'm sorry), and to which I think there can be a hundred good answers.
However, I think it's important we realize how potentially dangerous Reno Jackson is as a card. For all the amazing aesthetic it encompasses and the whimsy nature of the character, it is still a game element, a card with a mechanic we have to balance. It's hard to future-proof a card that has no clear balancing boundaries, and that makes it all the more important that we tread carefully.
And as a last note, do you remember the exact moment where hearing...
ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º ༽ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º EVERYONE, GET IN HERE! ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º ༽ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º༼ ºل͜º༼
...stopped making you giggle uncontrollably as you chanted along, and started making you irrationally angry at virtual self-replicating mustached dwarves to the point of hitting Alt - F4 in frustration?
I didn't think so. We all got fed up with it, but there was no one moment where it occurred; it was a gradual annoyance rather than a blatant Undertaker-like disgust. The card was amazing, but the amazement wore off to make room for weariness.
Likewise, gettin' rich may get old. Not quite yet, for sure, but keep an eye out.