Reno Jackson is a card that has been lauded as one of the great hallmarks of Blizzard’s design team for being a card that is unique, but powerful. A card that has uses in more than one deck variant, can swing games on his own while not being overly dominant, and allowing a level of flexibility that is otherwise unheard of in the game.
I was recently watching one of my favorite streamers, Kripparian, and he mentioned a great point about Reno Jackson that I hadn’t previously thought about. His point was essentially that the card, while great on many merits, can turn into something that’s definitely cancerous when placed in a very aggressive metagame, which just so happens to be what we have right now. While there are certainly decks that are slower, such as Reno Mage and Dragon Priest, the aggressive decks will always be pushed in Hearthstone simply due to the speed and ease of play that the decks provide. The problem is excacerbated even further when Blizzard releases cards such as Patches the Pirate. As Reynad put it, “for the first time in the short history of Hearthstone is there a deck that out tempos even Zoo Warlock.” He was of course, mentioning Pirate warrior and shaman, as well as the aggressive Rogue decks that have been sneaking in wins on the ladder.
The core difference in these new age aggro decks is that they are designed to kill you much faster than any aggressive deck of the past. Against Pirate Warrior, for example, it’s not out of the norm to lose to an enemy by turn 4 or 5 due to immense pressure. Kripp argues that, in this meta of blazing fast aggro decks, whether you win or lose a game ultimately comes down to whether you draw Reno Jackson or not. Because of this, he believes Reno Jackson to be rather boring design when placed in a fast metagame. I tend to agree with Kripparians assessment, however I think the larger elephant in the room is the issue of how fast these aggressive decks are.
The quintessential matchup.
One of the questions that we really need to reflect upon and ask ourselves whenever we talk about universally hated decks like Aggro Shaman, Hunter, and Pirate Warrior is, “How fast is too fast?” You might get a 50/50 winrate with something like a Pirate Warrior but does it come down to individual skill or does it come down to topdeck draws like Reno Jackson swinging the game in the other direction? These are the tough questions that it feels the Hearthstone community shirks all too often, in favor of simply going after aggro decks for being “too easy.” The bigger question is really “how fast?” It’s of my opinion that this is largely an unseen line, however in the new Mean Streets of Gadgetzan expansion, we’ve certainly crossed it. I see Warriors regularly putting out 4/3 worth of stats on top of a weapon on turn 1 which is completely insane value that most decks simply cannot contend with.
As Mean Streets of Gadgetzan is concerned, the inclusion of Patches the Pirate as a card has completely turned the game on its head and made aggressive decks kings of the meta, and their seemingly unstoppable tempo advantages leaves other players feeling naught but that PJSalt.
One of the universally requested changes that players have been asking Blizzard for is to keep Reno Jackson in the classic set once League of Explorers rotates out in the coming expansion. Kripparian is of the belief that the card is now too boring to play and promotes bland gameplay reliant on topdecks as opposed to smart play. Personally, I don’t believe that Reno Jackson is the core issue, but rather the speed at which aggressive decks overpower opponents and end games, requiring cards like Reno Jackson to be drawn or lose the game. Aggressive decks have been an issue for a long time, and now that they are hyper-fast, slower control game styles of decks require the card in order to have a snowball’s chance of beating their more lightweight counterparts.
I propose that Reno Jackson isn’t a problem as Kripp would like to say, but rather one of the only things standing in between us and a completely aggressive metagame. Without Reno Jackson to combat against ever-hyper aggressive decks, slower players will simply get overrun starting from turn 1. Taking note of Blizzard’s design department also reveals that they seem to be fine with this kind of aggression and speed of play when it comes to the Standard meta. For every piece of defensive tool that Blizzard gives slow decks, they seem to give an even more powerful early game tool to aggressive decks in order to keep their edge and make games even faster. I expect this trend to sadly continue in to the future, and so I do not expect Blizzard to “fix” what they have seemingly broken. With that being said, we will need cards such as Reno Jackson in the future to be on a level playing field with our opponents. It’s simply not going to become optional in the future rotations and sets. It will be mandatory.