Just your average, expected, typical Demon Hunter boardstates. Nothing strange to see here, move along.
Everyone has their pet decks: the ones that they keep playing and refining over and over again regardless of the win rate solely because they find it fun and engaging to play for long stretches of time. These are the decks that people become attached to and enjoy experimenting with as they look to find the perfect set of 30 cards that somehow work together even though they probably shouldn't. The decks that people focus on rather than grinding out the next rank on ladder using a meta deck because I dunno, LOOK AT WHAT I MADE.
This is that deck for me.
I was away from the game on an extended break during the last round of highlander payoff cards that got released, namely Zephrys the Great, Dragonqueen Alexstrasza and the assorted highlander class legendaries from Saviors of Uldum. You know who else wasn't playing the game at that point? Demon Hunters. Like, any of them. They didn't exist yet. As a result, the class inherently suffers in the Reno department from a lack of as many options as some of the other classes which more frequently restrict themselves to single copies of cards in their decks. This combined with a general lack of cards still has kept most Demon Hunters from trying out Reno decks in wild as they sit a power level or two lower than their counterparts.
I can feel the tides slowly turning. We are steadily receiving more and more cards as new sets are released, and some of the gaps in a potential Reno deck are getting filled in. With the release of Jace Darkweaver we too have our own scaling, potentially repeatable Yogg/Shudderwock-like effect that will only get more and more stupid as new cards are printed. Cards like Queen Azshara, Kazakusan and Zai, the Incredible give us value engines that can start to keep pace with other more greedy decks. The Fel spell school's inclination to both steal life and regularly obliterate both sides of the board gives us some slightly self-destructive control tools that can give us survivability into the later stages of a game. All of these disparate parts begin to come together to form the shell of a Reno deck that will only continue to receive pieces in the form of spells and legendary cards as time goes on.
Does that mean this deck shoots right up to the level of Reno Priest or Shaman and can rise to their level of infamy? Abso-frickin-lutely not. There is still a lot of help needed, and I wish that the year of the hydra sees the introduction of a highlander payoff card for Demon Hunter that is also a Naga. Until that day comes, this is the deck I have been endlessly refining and enjoying in my free time when I want interesting games with a lot of chaos going on.
Since every card in a highlander deck deserves careful consideration before being included, I will explain my thoughts for every single card in the deck rather than break them up into groups. To anyone who actually reads to the end…I'm sorry. And thank you. But mostly, I'm sorry. Here we go:
Felscream Blast: Good, flexible removal that can help to deal with very early game boards against swarmy aggro decks and give you some lifegain that can both be buffed by the Talented Arcanist in the deck as well as replayed with your Jace Darkweaver as a later game board clear assist. Not a horrible card to copy either with the Ring of Tides if you so choose, as multiple casts of the spell on a Jace turn can really get your health back up and board under control.
Fury (Rank 1): This is your go-to hero damage boosting spell in any fel deck. Your goal should be to get this up to rank 3 for the +4 damage so that Jace can recast it later in the game for a big boost of damage, but don't be afraid to use it as needed earlier on to clear out a board. If you've managed to get your Jace or Brann discounted enough through something like Skull of Gul'dan, don't forget to play Fury before throwing down the combo. That has won me a few games after I nearly missed the fact I could play them all in one turn.
Illidari Studies: Such a nice card, and one of our cheap value generators in the deck. I usually look for either card draw or fel damage, depending on the board state and how dire things are getting. I also try to play whatever I discover on the turn I discover it so it doesn't get trapped in my hand. As such, try to play Illidari Studies only when you have mana to follow-up on the same turn.
Mana Burn: I love this card and hope Demon Hunter gets more mana disrupt like this in the future. Handy for slowing down certain decks on key turns (Druid on 4, anyone?) and for stacking up the Jace pool to limit follow-up plays. If you can duplicate the spell through Ring of Tides or Zai, the Incredible you can basically lock out your opponent after you play Jace. If you miraculously have a board survive the felfire, this can seal games.
Multi-Strike: You think this card is gonna get nerfed? This is another hero attack buff and a great way to manage the board earlier on by itself, or later on in the game when combined with cards like Chaos Strike and Aldrachi Warblades.
Chaos Strike: Card draw and hero attack power in one card…this may be the most "Demon Hunter" card that has ever Demon Hunter-ed. I prioritize board control with this one and tend to use it early on to get the draw going.
Fel Barrage: I think this card has slotted into every Demon Hunter deck since it came out. It acts as both board control and face damage depending on the situation, and can provide reach through taunts if you have your opponent down low enough. For some extra fun, combo this with Talented Arcanist.
Immolation Aura: Cheap AOE removal that can definitely save you against some more the more popular decks right now, chiefly Pirate Rogue. Since this deck doesn't build much of a board in the early game, you should feel free to toss this out as soon as you start to feel the pressure. You do have more AOE options later on in the game, so don't feel too attached to this one. Just keep track of what's inside your Jace at all times so you aren't surprised when he blows up your board as well.
Wayward Sage: While not a great card on her own, this naga enables one of your main win conditions when utilized correctly. If you hit EITHER Brann Bronzebeard or Jace Darkweaver, you create a ten mana combo resulting in a double Jace battlecry. This combo is your main source of lethal burst damage, and should be set up whenever possible. Sometimes, this may mean throwing out a card or two to get the Sage in the outcast position at the right moment. You'll have to play the deck and weigh when it is better to work towards that combo specifically or if it is better to be patient and risk a delay in pulling it off.
Aldrachi Warblades: A late addition to the deck, the Warblades give you an extra bit of healing as well as some limited board control in the late early game through face attacks to minions. If desperate, they can always be combined with any of your hero attack buff spells and hero power to increase the healing you receive. This often allows you to remove unexpected threats early on and survive to the late game where your bombs lay.
Chaos Leech: Yet another fel source of healing and damage. I tend to play this spell when it is not in the outcast slot and it functions fine, so you have to be careful about waiting for the "perfect" time to play it. In my mind, getting it in the Jace pool quickly is more important that getting the two extra damage out of it, so I'm not one to hold on to it for long. If it happens to line up in the outcast slot when needed, all the better. Jace will always cast his spells non-outcasted, so this will get you 3 damage/healing on your burst turn, not five.
Crow's Nest Lookout: Admit it, you've never seen this card played either. This is a flex spot more or less, and I chose the demon to provide extra board-clearing damage that didn't conflict with the 4 mana slot for reasons you shall see shortly. The upsides of this minion are that it can hit stealth and evasive minions as well as hit the same minion twice if your opponent only has one. I'm not 100% convinced on the lookout, but it has filled a gap nicely thus far.
Eye Beam: Again, pretty straightforward. Damage plus healing, and more fuel for the Jace fire.
Predation: Given that we run a few naga in this deck, you should be able to get this to 0-cost fairly reliably. Even if you don't, this card represents three extra damage for board control or face chipping that will be duplicated later in the game by Jace. Do note that if you reduce the cost to 0, this will carry over to a duplicate created by Zai, the Incredible. This can give you some unexpected burst that Jace is all too happy to imitate later on.
Chaos Nova: Not the most efficient board clear, but a great one to bail you out of sticky situations through a Ring of Tides duplication. If you do go this route, every Jace you play will become a self-destructive board-clearing bomb, capable of handling some impressive boards all by himself.
Zai, the Incredible: This is my pet card, alongside Star Student Stelina. It's amazing to me how she was basically designed for a highlander deck and then released in a Standard meta that featured nothing relating to Highlander at all before rotating out just as Reno returned to the format. There are a TON of good targets in this deck that are ripe for duplication, but my favorites would probably have to be Queen Azshara or her reward, Jace Darkweaver or [Hearthstone Card (Dragonquenn Alexstrasza) Not Found] for continuous late game bombs, or Skull of Gul'dan for typical amounts of Demon Hunter draw and discounts. No matter how you choose to utilize her, your targets for Zai set the tone for the rest of the game you are currently in. You will have to decide to prioritize damage through spells, value through generators, or burst through your combo pieces. I love the options and choices she enables, and she fits like a glove FINALLY in this deck.
Coilskar Commander: Build-a-Spreading Plague! Another not amazing card that can give you a lot of survivability in this deck against the more aggressive foes you will face. Since you have so many board clearing spells, its actually not nearly as difficult to survive and activate this card as it would be in a more straightforward aggressive list. If you combine this with Brann, you get a wall of five 2/6 taunts like the picture at the start of the guide. As you can see there, this makes Pirate Rogues so happy that they explode.
Skull of Gul'dan: The quintessential Demon Hunter card draw. Not much to say here either, throw it down as soon as you have it outcasted (if you have the hand space.)
Jace Darkweaver: Fel-dderwock. If you've read my other Demon Hunter deck guides, you already know I love this dude. He is one of your primary win conditions and allows you to go up against wide boards over and over again if you are able to duplicate or return him to your hand. The rule of thumb with playing Mr. Dankweaver is to get him as loaded up with spells as possible before playing him, while also trying to line him up with Brann or Zola (if he will survive his own battlecry). Love the fel, embrace the fel, make everything glow green.
Amalgam of the Deep: In addition to discovering you a naga, demon, or dragon depending on your board state, this card single-handedly enables Kazakusan, one of your win conditions. If you manage to play Dragonqueen Alexstrasza, her two generated dragons, and the amalgam over the course of your game, the Kazakusman will be online and ready to go. This is your primary win condition against slower control decks. While the set-up may be fragile since you technically only play two dragons in the whole deck, this isn't the only thing you have going for you. If a piece gets ratted or heckled out of your deck, then you can pivot to one of your other options.
Talented Arcanist: Another late addition that I am completely sold on. This slot was originally taken up by Mo'arg Artificer before others suggested the talented troll boi. I have definitely grown to appreciate this card more, since it can also buff spells that go face. I can definitely see how this card earned its spot in the Lifesteal OTK decks of Darkmoon and Barrens.
Zephrys the Great: I don't really have much to add to this card, he is vital to the deck and gets you out of almost any situation. It's Zeph: manipulate your mana to get the results you want, and use him for lethal or board clears as needed.
Brann Bronzebeard: Enables not only your main burst combo with Jace after a Wayward Sage discount, but can also give you extra value through Dragonqueen Alexstrasza, Coilskar Commander, Queen Azshara, and Zai, the Incredible. As you would expect, don't expect him to survive if you leave him on the board. Only play him as a combo with something else.
Crushclaw Enforcer: One of the cards you should be keeping in your mulligan, this helps you thin out your deck quickly and get your nagas and their battlecries in hand. Keep in mind hand placement and leftover mana if Wayward Sage is an option, as you will need to play her immediately or risk her getting stranded in hand.
Zola the Gorgon: Enables Predation as well as gets you extra copies of your vital minions. Any of your higher cost legendaries are good targets, and she can work together alongside Zai to give you infinite loops of value…if you somehow have the life total, mana, and hand space to do so.
Kazakus, Golem Shaper: I have had this card sitting around FOREVER and never used it. Man, I was missing out. This totally-not-a-dragon is very flexible in a variety of situations, and has become a vital part of the deck. I typically go for 5-cost golems, seeking out Poisonous and minion damage as my battlecries. If a board clear does not seem needed, I try to get either summoning copies or card draw instead. If I am really ahead, or able to bounce the "troll" back to my hand, I indulge myself with 10-cost golems for the late game. In your deck building, you may decide you would like to run some other 4 cost card here instead of Kazakus, but I did not find any other option nearly as compelling. I am totally sold on this version of Kazakus.
Queen Azshara: Another new value engine which has proven quite potent. In this deck, I generally pick either Ring of Tides to copy my fel spells or card draw as needed, or Horn of Ancients for the colossal minions it provides. That being said, there are definitely situations where the extra draw from Tidestone of Golganneth can be handy even if the spells are typically subpar at best. I have not really picked Xal'atath much in this deck as I find I never have enough spells readily available to make it worth it, but your results may vary. Remember, any fel spell you copy with Ring of Tides also goes into your Jace pool!
Reno Jackson: I…..uh…..yeah. It's Reno. Not much to say. Um……did you know he's also a dragon? Cool.
Kazakusan: As noted earlier, post-nerf Kazakusman can actually be brought online by only two cards in this deck, one of which you would generally run in a highlander deck anyways. So for minimal investment, you can bring a deck full of Duels treasures online and give yourself powerful late game outs against slower decks. Many thanks to Swizard for this observation and idea, as I was beginning to despair after I had to take the dragon out of my questline Demon Hunter deck I worked so hard on.
Dragonqueen Alexstrasza: A highlander staple. The queen serves as a lategame value bomb as well as even-later-game Kazakusan activator that gives you new fuel to combat control decks in the absurdly late game.
As with any highlander deck, the options for customization are expansive. The above cards were all included or considered heavily at one point, but as the focus of the deck honed in on fel spells and a potential Jace finisher with a Kazakusan backup plan, I found these cards either were suboptimal or just got squeezed out of one of the 30 spots in the deck. I’m working on other Demon Hunter decks currently, and will also be experimenting with adapting them to a highlander shell as well. As I write this, Roffle just posted a Reno list that focused on Deathrattles that went 7-0 on stream, so there’s definitely other avenues to explore here as well!
Mulligans and Matchups
As expected, I have had a good deal of success handling aggro decks as they arise, especially Pirate Rogue. That being said, you can still get taken down quickly if your draws don’t cooperate, so I prioritize board clears and minion damage in my opening hand unless I know I’m facing a slow deck like a combo Druid or Priest. In addition, I will hold on to Queen Azshara or Coilskar Commander if they show up in the mulligan, as I find I want their effects online as soon as possible. Wayward Sage on the other hand usually goes back into the deck, unless she landed in the leftmost outcast slot and she is next to Brann or Jace. In that rare situation, I will throw her down right away on turn two to secure the discount on the combo piece. Spell-wise, I prioritize AOE clears such as Felscream Blast, Immolation Aura or Fel Barrage in my opening hand to handle small, wide boards that may try to swarm me down. Once the game gets going, try to hone in on either a Jace combo gameplan or a Kazakusan gameplan, working towards a potential earlier Zephrys the Great lethal if you can find an opening.
Thank you for reading all of my nonsense. The main point is, I feel like Highlander Demon Hunter is finally starting to become viable (in a loose, fun sense) and will only become stronger as more cards are printed. Besides giving you some truly wacky scenarios like the pictures up above, this deck will also generally surprise your opponents because who in their right mind would play Reno Demon Hunter when there’s so many other legitimately better options out there?
This guy. This guy would.
Also Nightborne Aranna is an incredible hero skin and I need it NOW.
Vote On This Deck!
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- 1 Felscream Blast x 1
- 1 Fury (Rank 1) x 1
- 1 Illidari Studies x 1
- 1 Mana Burn x 1
- 2 Chaos Strike x 1
- 2 Fel Barrage x 1
- 2 Immolation Aura x 1
- 2 Multi-Strike x 1
- 2 Wayward Sage x 1
- 3 Aldrachi Warblades x 1
- 3 Chaos Leech x 1
- 3 Crow's Nest Lookout x 1
- 3 Eye Beam x 1
- 3 Predation x 1
- 5 Chaos Nova x 1
- 5 Zai, the Incredible x 1
- 6 Coilskar Commander x 1
- 6 Skull of Gul'dan x 1
- 8 Jace Darkweaver x 1