Highlander Mage

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Highlander Mage (also known as Reno Mage) is a Mage deck type that utilizes highlander cards like Reno the Relicologist and Zephrys the Great to outlast opponents. Reno Mage has access to a variety of cards to outlast the opponent and generate value. A Standard Reno Mage would be able to utilize Conjurer's Calling and Mountain Giant, King Phaoris, and Hex Lord Malacrass to generate value in the late game. Reno the Relicologist, Flame Ward, and Doomsayer also keep Reno Mage safe in the early game.

In Wild, Reno Mage not only has access to Reno Jackson, Kazakus, and Inkmaster Solia, but also a Deathrattle package with N'zoth, the Corruptor, causing Reno Mage to be even stronger in Wild, especially against aggressive decks.

Deck type[edit | edit source]

Reno Mage is a highly versatile deck, being particular "modular". A typical Reno Mage deck would utilize packages of cards synergizing to some mechanics. This is also seen in other control decks, especially in other Highlander decks, but nowhere near the degree of Reno Mage. Some common packages of cards Reno Mage has access to includes Secrets, Deathrattles, and summoning.

Many typical Reno Mage decks don't feature a particular win-condition, and victories are mostly accomplished through consistently controlling the board and outvaluing the opponent. Due to Reno Mage's ability to adapt to the meta, Reno Mage will almost certainly be viable under any meta, and this is what often put Reno Mage at an advantage compared to other Highlander decks.

Against aggro decks, Reno Mage can consistently stall with cards like Frost Nova, Doomsayer, and Flame Ward, then establish a board and slowly recover in the late game with Reno Jackson and Flamestrike. Due to the nature of Highlander decks, more value-oriented Reno Mage variants often depend heavily on luck in the early game to survive. Cards such as Tar Creeper, and Ice Barrier are often played in Reno Mage when aggro decks are prevalent in the current meta.

Against control decks, Reno Mage can likely outvalue the opponent, with access to a variety to Hearthstone's most efficient removal tools such as Polymorph and Flamestrike. Reno Mage often struggles with Highlander mirrors due to its focus on tempo, and being inconsistent at removing large boards such as those created by N'Zoth, the Corruptor or Bloodreaver Gul'dan.

Against combo decks, Reno Mage has a few combo-disruption cards such as Potion of Polymorph, and Deathlord. Ice Block can also disrupt many combos, such as Shirvallah, the Tiger and Holy Wrath combo in Holy Wrath Paladin. If combo decks become very popular, Reno Mage can also react by using Dirty Rat, Hecklebot, or Unseen Saboteur.

Ice Block also makes Reno Jackson much more useful. Other Highlander decks are often forced to play Reno suboptimally to be safe. With Ice Block, however, Reno Mage can save Reno because Ice Block almost guarantees a turn of survival. Due to Ice Block, Reno Mage decks can often play Reno at around 1 health, making the most out of an already valuable card.

Although Reno Mage can easily adapt to the meta, it is difficult for Reno Mage to change playstyles in a particular game. Reno Mage lacks tools for applying pressure early in the game, whereas Renolock has Mal'Ganis and Voidcaller, and Highlander Priest has Northshire Cleric and Drakonid Operative. Alongside not having tools to apply pressure, Reno Mage also struggles with hand manipulation and card generation, making it even more difficult to change playstyles during a game. Against Mech Hunter, Highlander Priest decks could use Shadow Visions for Psychic Scream, but when facing Aggro Druid, use Shadow Visions for Shadow Word: Horror. A Renolock for instance, can also use Expired Merchant to manipulate the hand. A Control Warrior would also be able to use Omega Devastator in the early game as a decently-sized threat against an aggro deck, but save it for removal when facing a control deck. Reno Mage has no similar card or combination of cards like that of the above-mentioned decks to change playstyles during a game.

History[edit | edit source]

When Reno was first released in League of Explorers, Mage was not the best class to play him in. At the time, Freeze Mage was a much better option for Mage, and Warrior was generally a better fit for Reno. One year later, following the release of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, Mage, alongside the other Kabal classes, received Kazakus. Reno Mage was then made into a competitive deck with Highlander Priest and Renolock. Reno Mage was able to perform better against aggro decks compared to other control decks at the time, with Frost Nova, Blizzard, Flamestrike, and Polymorph.

Reno Mage quickly fell out of favor again one expansion later after the Year of the Mammoth rotation made Reno Jackson a Wild-exclusive card. Highlander Priest consistently outperformed Reno Mage for the entirety of the Year of the Mammoth. After the Year of the Raven rotation, Kazakus, Inkmaster Solia, Raza the Chained, and Krul the Unshackled all rotated into Wild, making all Highlander decks in the Year of the Raven Wild-exclusive. In Wild, Renolock was often favored much more compared to other Highlander decks due to its demon package with Voidcaller, Voidlord, Malganis, and Sense Demons.

Highlander-supporting cards were added again in Saviors of Uldum with Zephrys the Great and Reno the Relicologist, bringing the archetype back to Standard. Mage was one of the four classes to receive class-specific Highlander-supporting cards, resulting in Reno Mage being popular among the new Highlander decks. Reno Mage was especially powerful in the first weeks of Savior of Uldum with Luna's Pocket Galaxy and Conjurer's Calling, and their supporting cards Kalecgos, Mountain Giant, and Tortollan Pilgrim. After the nerfs to Luna's Pocket Galaxy and Conjurer's Calling in Patch 15.0.4.33402, Reno Mage fell out of favor again, but still remained as a valid competitive deck.

After receiving more support in Descent of Dragons with Dragonqueen Alexstrasza and a powerful Dragon package, Highlander Mage made a resurgence in the meta, as one of the most played decks in this period, Highlander Mage was even more powerful in tournaments due to players having the ability to control their matchups. As a strongly matchup-dependent deck, this made Highlander Mage much more popular in competitive settings than it was in Ranked Mode. In Wild, the new spell-generating Dragon cards like Arcane Breath, Malygos, Aspect of Magic, and Cobalt Spellkin greatly synergized with Open the Waygate. Paired with other staples in Reno Mage like Zephrys the Great, Kazakus, Ray of Frost, and Primordial Glyph, the quest was completed effortlessly. As a result, combo-oriented Highlander Mage decks started to dominate the Wild meta. Additionally, Archmage Vargoth granting three turns in a row allowed easy victories even when the Giants for the combo were not drawn.

In Ashes of Outland, Highlander Mage still remained a competitively viable deck in both formats, but still suffered a decreases in popularity due to the heavy disadvantage against Demon Hunter. However, the subsequent nerf to both Demon Hunter and Bad Luck Albatross once again proved the competitive viability of Highlander Mage in Standard. The nerf to Open the Waygate was a severe blow on Wild Highlander Mage causing it to no longer hold a dominating position in the meta. It's also a pretty affordable deck archetype for new and returning players, as long as they're eligible for a free deck; the Mage free deck, "Reno's Riches", contains most of the core Highlander Mage package, including the three key legendaries — Reno the Relicologist, Zephrys the Great and Dragonqueen Alexstrasza.

Common cards[edit | edit source]

Core Standard cards[edit | edit source]

The following cards are played in most or all Standard versions of the deck:

Astromancer Solarian(210717).png
Doomsayer(467).png
Zephrys the Great(90825).png
Arcane Intellect(489).png
Frost Nova(49).png
Fireball(522).png
Polymorph(595).png
Blizzard(276).png
Khartut Defender(90794).png
Reno the Relicologist(90719).png
Flamestrike(44).png
Power of Creation(90570).png
Dragonqueen Alexstrasza(151349).png
The Amazing Reno(176351).png

Optional Standard cards[edit | edit source]

The following Standard cards are played more than occasionally, but not always:

Violet Spellwing(151421).png
Learn Draconic(127286).png
Ray of Frost(90607).png
Bloodmage Thalnos(525).png
Frostbolt(177).png
Khadgar(90568).png
Arcane Amplifier(184661).png
Flame Ward(90790).png
Ice Barrier(672).png
Vulpera Scoundrel(90847).png
Bone Wraith(90784).png
Conjurer's Calling(90625).png
Rolling Fireball(151413).png
Archmage Antonidas(220).png
Siamat(90789).png
Deep Freeze(210794).png
Alexstrasza(303).png
King Phaoris(90792).png
Puzzle Box of Yogg-Saron(90692).png

Dragon Package[edit | edit source]

Arcane Breath(151359).png
Azure Explorer(127296).png
Big Ol' Whelp(151402).png
Cobalt Spellkin(151371).png
Malygos, Aspect of Magic(127294).png
Dragoncaster(151360).png
Kalecgos(90544).png

Core Wild cards[edit | edit source]

The following cards are played in most or all Standard versions of the deck:

Mad Scientist(7748).png
Primordial Glyph(55552).png
Brann Bronzebeard(27214).png
Ice Block(28).png
Flame Ward(90790).png
Zola the Gorgon(76880).png
Kazakus(49622).png
Zilliax(89803).png
Meteor(55558).png
Reno Jackson(27228).png
Frost Lich Jaina(61810).png

Deathrattle package[edit | edit source]

Deathlord(7753).png
Rotten Applebaum(89347).png
Sludge Belcher(7749).png
Sylvanas Windrunner(33).png
N'Zoth, the Corruptor(33134).png

Secret package[edit | edit source]

Arcane Flakmage(90743).png
Arcanologist(55450).png
Medivh's Valet(42048).png
Counterspell(531).png
Duplicate(7732).png
Potion of Polymorph(49694).png
Cloud Prince(90742).png

Quest package[edit | edit source]

Open the Waygate(55551).png
Banana Buffoon(90268).png
Archmage Vargoth(90615).png
Mana Giant(151419).png
Arcane Giant(42049).png

Optional Wild cards[edit | edit source]

The following Wild cards are played more than occasionally, but not always:

Babbling Book(42028).png
Magic Trick(90579).png
Mistress of Mixtures(49646).png
Zombie Chow(683).png
Arcane Blast(22358).png
Dirty Rat(49673).png
Golakka Crawler(55453).png
Pyros(52582).png
Gluttonous Ooze(55488).png
Voodoo Doll(89404).png
Stargazer Luna(89805).png
Forgotten Torch(27216).png
Volcanic Potion(49689).png
Antique Healbot(12227).png
Azure Drake(280).png
Elise the Trailblazer(55451).png
Skulking Geist(62883).png
Emperor Thaurissan(14454).png
Inkmaster Solia(49693).png
Luna's Pocket Galaxy(89888).png
Ragnaros the Firelord(503).png
Yogg-Saron, Hope's End(33168).png