Deck of the Week – C’Thun Renolock
Kyle “EndBoss” Smith
While he got knocked out in the top 8 of the European Spring Championships, Spain’s King of C’Thun Decks “AKAWonder” certainly made some noise in the Spring Preliminaries with a lineup featuring 3 C’Thun lists: C’Thun Druid, C’Thun Warrior and today’s deck C’Thun Renolock.
The Renolock archetype has been a pretty strong metagame force since Reno Jackson started making people rich this past fall. The archetype has fallen off in popularity since the release of Whispers of the Old Gods, with Zoolock becoming the overwhelmingly dominant Warlock list. It turns out that all Reno needed to make a comeback was some divine intervention.
This list adds a new spin on the classic Renolock archetype by utilizing the power of C’Thun. This adds a lot of additional inevitability to several of your matchups. C’Thun plus Doomcaller is dominant in control matchups, and Twin Emperors is fantastic against control and midrange strategies.
Fortunately, due to the draw power of the Warlock hero power, the deck has a surprising amount of consistency in getting C’Thun to the all-important 10/10 threshold. As an added bonus, due to the high number of Zoolock decks running around, you can count on gaining an additional advantage in your matchups, as your opponents will almost certainly mulligan as if they are playing against Zoolock, preparing for a rush of small creatures that will never come.
The current prevalence of control-style Warrior lists (both Control and C’Thun Warrior) is a boon to this list, as those matchups are overwhelmingly in your favour. Those lists put minimal pressure on in the early game, and give you the time you need to add extra resources through your hero power. By the time you get to critical turns, you are playing with many more resources than the Warrior player, and should have all the tools you need to dominate. Save Acidic Swamp Ooze for your opponent’s Gorehowl, if you can, and be careful not to leave yourself open to a Grommash/Revenge burst turn. The only game I have lost to a Control Warrior came from a Gorehowl hit coupled with a Grommash/Revenge after I had played Lord Jaraxxus.
C’Thun Renolock manages to consistently destroy pretty much any other control deck, while still managing to maintain solid matchups against aggro decks. The matchups against Zoolock and Shaman (both Aggro and Midrange) have felt strong, but are often very close. While I have been maintaining a strong win-rate against them, many of the games have been very close, and one or two misplays could have easily turned them from wins to losses. Overall, I would say that these are likely favourable matchups, but are likely closer to the 55% or 60% range, with a fair amount of variability based on play skill and familiarity with the deck. Your board clear cards are very important in these matchups, as both of these decks can fill the board in a heartbeat, and one-for-one removal is just not enough to keep up. Reno Jackson shines in both of these, but in particular against Shaman, who generally run out of gas and rely heavily on direct damage to finish the game. Lava Burst and Doomhammer just aren’t as intimidating when you are at full life and your opponent is out of gas.
Tempo Mage and Midrange Hunter also feel like pretty solidly favourable matchups. Against Hunter, remember when their drops are coming. Try to deny them turn 4 Houndmaster (ie. Remove any turn 3 beast), and, most importantly, make sure you are ready for when Call of the Wild hits on turn 8 (or 7 with coin). Against Tempo Mage, the key is to keep yourself out of range of their direct damage spells. Demonwrath is very strong against their suite of 3/2 minions. Hold Shadow Bolt for Flamewaker, if you can.
If you have read my articles for the last few weeks, you will notice that I tend to play a lot of decks that get stomped by Miracle Rogue, and this one is no exception. If you get matched up against Rogue, hope that it is a N’Zoth list. If that fails, try to save a Shadowflame, Twisting Nether or Hellfire/Demonwrath combo to deal with Auctioneer/Conceal. Twin Emperors and C’Thun also give you a fighting chance, if you can get survive while getting some early C’Thun buffs.
Aside from the Rogue matchup, I haven’t found another matchup where I felt particularly disadvantaged. The general weakness that all Reno decks have, however, is the relative lack of consistency. You have incredible threat diversity, but you can’t count on drawing any particular card, unless you are playing a lengthy control matchup. Several of your matchups, your aggro ones in particular, look much better with a Reno Jackson or the appropriate area of effect card than they do without them. The only way to really deal with this general weakness is to keep key cards, even if they are more expensive, if they are important enough in the particular matchup (and as long as you have enough early game in the rest of your hand), and to adjust your strategy on-the-fly if the tools that you are given are more suited to a different angle of attack than you would normally take.
Play & Mulligan Advice
Keep Reno! I don’t think there is a single matchup where you do not want him in your opening hand. Sure, he won’t come down until turn 6, and you should normally mulligan 6 drops, but I think Reno is a very valid exception. He wins you games that no other card can, and I think it is always correct to keep him if you have him in your opening grip.
In addition to Reno, you pretty much always want to keep your cheap C’Thun enablers (ie. Ones not named Doomcaller). You don’t have many C’Thun enablers, so holding onto the ones you have helps you hit the 10/10 threshold more consistently. Beckoner, Disciple and Elder are always keeps, Chosen is usually a keep, and Crazed Worshiper is a contextual keep (ie. It depends on how solid the rest of your hand is to get you through to turn 5). Watch for spots where Brann can help you get to that magical 10/10 threshold. Sometimes it is worth holding back Beckoner of Evil until turn 5 so you can drop it with Brann and get there. That having been said, Brann’s best friend is usually Disciple of C’Thun, who turns into a Shadow Bolt that also buffs your C’Thun twice.
Also, remember that you should always mulligan as if you are playing against the more aggressive deck your opponent could be playing. In other words, if you see a Warlock, assume it is Zoolock and not Renolock. If you are playing against Warrior, assume it is Tempo or Dragon Warrior, and not Control Warrior. In the control variant matchups, you draw so many extra cards that your opening hand is usually more or less irrelevant, so you might as well make sure that you are prepared for the matchups where your opener will matter more.
In that vein, the cards you want most against aggro (aside from the cheap C’Thun minions and Reno, which we discussed above) are your cheaper board clear cards (ie. Doomsayer, Shadowflame, Hellfire and Demonwrath). A quick note: pay particular attention when playing Demonwrath against Zoolock, so you don’t accidentally end up missing your opponent’s key creatures. Aside from that, you usually also keep cheap creatures like Dark Peddler, Imp Gang Boss and Earthen Ring Farseer, and you keep Shadow Bolt in every matchup. Mortal Coil is contextual. You want it against Zoolock, who have a lot of one toughness dudes, but I don’t like to keep it against Shaman unless I have something like Hellfire or Disciple of C’Thun. Shaman’s dudes are just too big, normally, so you only want to keep it unless you have another card that will likely be just short of killing an opposing dude. If in doubt, I would probably send Coil back and try to hit a more important card.
One of the nice things about Renolock is that it has a lot of flexibility in the build. If you dusted all of your Big Game Hunters after the nerf, he is an easy cut. Stampeding Kodo is a pretty strong substitution in this slot. Kodo is very well positioned in the current meta, with his ability to hit key cards like Flamewaker, Doomsayer and Bloodhoof Brave. I would consider this switch whether you have Big Game Hunters or not. Big Game Hunter is at his best in control matchups, which you win pretty consistently anyways, as he gets rid of big threats like Ragnaros and C’Thun, while gaining tempo, so he really is a metagame call. Refreshment Vendor is another possibility in this slot (or if you are missing anything else between about 4 mana and 6 mana in your curve), as is Usher of Souls, which is an inconsistent C’Thun buffer, but a solid creature nonetheless.
Of the legends, I would be hesitant to play the deck without Brann Bronzebeard (too important to pumping C’Thun), Lord Jaraxxus (too important in control matchups) or Twin Emperors (just too awesome, in general), and you obviously cannot play the deck without its namesakes: Reno Jackson and C’Thun. While Emperor Thaurissan and Sylvanas are very good cards, you could drop them if you don’t own them. The aforementioned Stampeding Kodo, Refreshment Vendor or Usher of Souls are possibilities in those slots, even though they are lower on your curve (with this deck I would be more likely to make swaps to lower the curve than to increase it). An on-curve option would be Sunwalker, as this deck is relatively low on taunt minions.
As always, thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave comments or questions on the Reddit thread. I will try to respond to as many as I can. Please tune in again next week when I have another spicy brew ready to share.