The first wing of the new expansion in Hearthstone came out this week, The League of Explorers. Each wing includes several new cards for each class, as well as several neutral cards, but each wing also includes a legendary neutral explorer. These explorers are meant to be a troop of treasure seekers prompting the lore to have an entirely new wing. What it means for the actual game is that in each wing one of these explorers are released, and they are legendary minions, each with a unique effect, new to Hearthstone.
This week’s explorer is Reno Jackson. He is a decent minion in himself, a 4/6 for 6 mana, but the really interesting part about him is his ability. Reno Jackson reads: Battlecry: If your deck contains no more than 1 of any card, fully heal your hero. This is an absolutely amazing ability if you are able to activate it, particularly right now since Hearthstone is in a very aggressive meta. In the two days since Reno Jackson has been released there have been dozens of videos and screenshots circulating in which he healed the player for over 25 health against a Face Hunter or some other form of aggressive deck, often followed by an immediate concede by the other player.
It sounds as if Reno Jackson is a new groundbreaking card, right? But it has massive downsides. The first is the fact that to reliably get his ability off you cannot be running duplicates of any cards in your deck. This means that your deck will be forced to run not just a few sub-optimal cards, but between ten and fifteen cards that could be replaced with much better cards for your deck. This alone is extremely difficult to get past, particularly this far into Hearthstone, where the decklists for nearly every class are refined down to a set thirty cards, with very little variation. But if you can get past that massive drawback, and decide to build a deck based around only one copy of each card, then Reno Jackson has massive potential… If you draw it. This is another huge downside. Your deck has been made significantly worse in order to include Reno Jackson’s full potential, that if you don’t draw him, you’re simply using a poor deck with no upside. Since the average game ends on turn nine currently, even if you throw away all of your opening cards (and assume you go second to see two more cards), you’ve only seen seventeen cards in your deck by turn nine. So in half the games you’ll play, you’ll never even see Reno Jackson.
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The other issue that Reno Jackson brings up is that of decktrackers. Many cards glow yellow when their conditional Battlecry conditions have been met. Reno Jackson is not one of these cards. So if you are running him in a deck where you have multiple copies of cards, you have to manually remember whether you have drawn at least one copy of all of those duplicates. Either that, or you can download an external program called a decktracker, which keeps track of your deck for you. The issue then arises, that players who has installed external programs now have a distinct advantage over players who are playing without them. Since Reno Jackson has a lot of potential in decks that play for the late game – Fatigue Warrior, Fatigue Mage, Handlock, Freeze Mage, Echo Mage, Control Warrior – a decktracker seems almost necessary if you want to include him. This is a huge issue for the health of the game, as it leaves casual players at a distinct disadvantage.
Reno Jackson is an innovative card which has a lot of potential to turn a game around instantly, but it doesn’t come without its downsides. Will it turn out to be strong enough to justify keeping duplicates out of decks? Will they add the yellow glow as they’ve said they might? Will players with decktrackers suddenly be at a huge advantage over every other player? We’ll see as more cards come to light in this expansion, and Blizzard decides what direction they want their game to go.