Anubomb’s Legend Tempo Rogue

Anubomb takes us through his Legend Tempo Rogue and how it goes up against current popular arch types.

Introduction

Hi guys, my name is anubomb. I took up Hearthstone around March and started playing seriously in April. I made legend in Season 2 and 3 primarily playing Tempo Rogue. The deck is a ton of fun because of how thought intensive it is. Deduction skills and knowledge of opponent’s decks are more important for this deck than any other I’ve tried, so it definitely rewards the player for putting in the effort.

But the Tempo Rogue is awesome for other reasons too. Almost no game feels the same. Most decks in the format follow a formula. Zoo will play board control and flood the board with small minions. Handlock will almost always play their  Twilight-Drake or Mountain-Giant on turn 4 and taunt them up in short order. Miracle will try to keep your board reasonable while trying to go off. Tempo Rogue does none of that. You play the game according to how your opponent is playing.

However that’s not to say the deck is reactive. Getting a tempo advantage means forcing your opponent into as many awkward decisions as possible. Every time you get your opponent to use his mana inefficiently, like forcing him to hero power instead of playing the Chillwind-Yeti, it’s the tiny tempo edges that build up. Figuring out what your opponent is trying to do, both short-term and long-term and working to disrupt that is a bit of a chess match that doesn’t really exist in many other decks.

Tempo Rogue games are intense and messy. You’ll take 20 damage off dagger sometimes. You’ll get a 3/2 loot-hoarder off your Defender-of-Argus but win because the hoarder couldn’t be killed by your opponent’s hero power.

Getting maximum value but sacrificing tempo is not the goal. You want to prevent value plays by your opponent, and use all your cards towards that goal.

Card Choices

Backstab: One of the best removal spell in the game and perfect for a rogue deck, especially a tempo variant. Your best combo enabler and one of the reasons you’re so dominant against zoo. This along with your hero ability is instrumental in switching to the offensive.

Shadowstep: A nice utility card. I was happy with the curve of the deck and this has more utility than something like cold-blood. Shadowstepping a big-game-hunter against Handlock or the-black-knight against ramp druid pretty much wins the game on the spot. Killing something with si7-agent and shadowstepping it to kill another is also great against zoo. There are a lot of relevant battlecry in the deck, and getting that extra burst through argent-commander or leeroy-jenkins is nice to have in this Meta where everyone’s trying to kill you from 20 life.

Deadly-Poison: All too often you’ll take a bit too much damage with your weapon than you’re comfortable with, but being able to play a Yeti and killing their 3 drop in the same turn is pretty damn good. Two charges make it very awkward for your opponent’s future plays. Cards like Deadly Poison and backstab are the reason rogue is the king of tempo. It’s a cheap, efficient removal that rewards good planning.

Argent-Squire: Requires 4 mana over two turns by the classes with damage ability to kill, putting you way ahead on tempo. It’s also a good way to combo, has synergy with blood-knight and one with unbroken shield is a great target for Argus.

Blade-Flurry: Our only mass removal spell in the deck. Important thing to remember about Blade Flurry is that it’s increased by spell damage. It’s only a 1 of because most times it’ll require spell damage and/or deadly poison to be useful, and we rarely need to kill a board of creatures with our vast arsenal of cheap removals.

Eviscerate: Rogue is pretty spoiled to have 2 of the best damage based removal in the game. It combos with bloodmage-thalnos or Azure-drake to kill big dudes, stems the tide against zoo in either mode, can be the final bits of damage to the face, especially against Handlock when they have 3 life but have set up an army of 9/9 taunt minions. The card does everything and an automatic 2 of in any rogue deck.

Sap: Sap is tempo gain but sacrifices card advantage to do so. Other than obviously being good by clearing way for lethal, sap is best when replaying the minion you sapped is a subpar option for the opponent. It’s great against the innervate shenanigans Druid does, and you can set back the opponent a lot by sapping a high costing target, especially if they don’t have a relevant battlecry like Cairne-bloodhoof. Sap is best when you’re able to advance your board the same turn. Using it but ending at the same spot next turn is lackluster.

Bloodmage-Thalnos: For my money, a top 2 legendary in the game and the best card in this deck. Rogue takes advantage of spell damage more than any other class, and having a Loot hoarder attached to a 2 mana minion that provides spell damage is just amazing.

Loot-Hoarder: Speaking of everyone’s favorite 2 drop, Loot Hoarder is the hero we deserve, but not the one we need. It’s fine to throw it out there to be killed by the druid or mage hero power…over and over.

Big-Game-Hunter: The era of Miracle Rogue has brought on a horde of Handlock in response, and Big Game Hunter eats them for breakfast. It doesn’t have targets against most of the popular decks admittedly, but its battlecry is so powerful when it’s relevant that it’s worth the slot.

Blood-Knight: Just a good 3 drop. Less susceptible to silence than Edwin-vancleef. It’s best when the Meta has a lot of divine shield like shockadin, token druid, zoo etc. Don’t be afraid to just drop it as a 3/3. Since it’s a metagame card and not as impactful as BGH, it’d be one of the first cards to take out for something else.

Harvest-Golem: This card oozes value. Combined with your many removals + dagger, it can trade with bigger guys while leaving a 2/1 body that has to be dealt with.

Si7-Agent: The defining rogue card. Your best card against zoo with a coin. It just does so much work. It takes out Yeti in combination with deadly poison for just 4 mana while leaving a 3/1 weapon behind and a 3/3. Kills Knife-juggler and gives you a 3/3. In a pinch can go to face. Super versatile and a staple.

Chillwind-Yeti: This is one of the unusual choices when compared to everything else in the deck. All of our other minions have an ability that helps us get the tempo edge. Yeti is a vanilla 4/5, but the body is better than anything that’s available at 4 mana and it’s tough to deal with it spending less than 4 mana and/or 2 cards.

Defender-of-Argus: I prefer this card over something like senjin-shieldmasta because it provides immediate buffs. It’s also a great target for Shadowstep.

Leeroy-Jenkins: Enemy #1 in hearthstone, but a useful component in this deck. I don’t think tempo rogue always needs to play this card, but in today’s Meta where everyone is trying to burst the opponent, I think we want the burst of Leeroy available.

Azure-Drake: Replaces itself, gives beautiful spell damage bonus and a 4/4 body to boot. The question isn’t why we’re running the drake, but why only 1. The answer lies with the next card on our list.

Harrison-Jones: I like the curve of the deck so the only way to fit Harrison Jones into the deck was to take out a drake. I’m not sure it was the right choice, but in a miracle dominated format it’s good to go the museum. The card is great against miracle, control warrior and shaman. Even getting a 1 durability weapon with this card is ridiculous value, so no need to be greedy, unless you’re sure he’s running a weapon that’s more dangerous.

Argent-Commander: If you notice, tempo rogue likes running cards that does something the turn it’s played. Even though something like Cairne provides more value, it’s too slow. We want to put our opponent on the back foot and keep them there. Argent Commander does that perfectly by taking out big guys either by itself or in combination with dagger or backstab. It’s also a tough son of a gun to kill, so it’ll regularly deal 8+ damage to the opponent or take out a minion + deals 4 damage. Also good synergy with Shadowstep to hit multiple times a turn or recharge the divine shield.

The-Black-Knight: It’s a bit awkward to play a 6 mana yeti that has no targets against the best deck in the format, but it crushes druids and killing pretty much any taunted dude with it is a huge tempo swing.

General Strategy

Tempo is putting the opponent on the back foot, and bit by bit increase your advantage until he is scrambling and losing card advantage to keep up. As mentioned above, all our cards serve that purpose. The goal is to gain a slight edge, and through these value cards, build that edge up. To do that, intimate knowledge of the opponent’s deck helps a lot.

You want to disrupt the opponent’s game plan. Forcing a hero power when he wants to play a 5 drop or playing a keeper-of-the-grove when he wants to Cairne all add up. Having near complete knowledge of the Meta helps you make educated guesses about what the opponent has in hand, and you can set up to beat his most likely plays and give him suboptimal options for using his mana. You want to look a couple turns ahead because combo is one of the core rogue mechanics and you want to set up your turns so you can combo SI Agent or eviscerate. Don’t use weapon on face if you have plays next turn that’ll prevent you from rebuying it.

The ideal turns for this deck goes turn 1 squire into hoarder, golem and yeti. The deck has a smooth curve until the 5th and 6th turns where you have fewer and fewer options. At that point you want to start playing multiple cards to activate combo and keep the pressure on. In most games you want to keep any minions 1-3 drops and backstab, except Thalnos sometimes because you rarely will play it turn 2. Against druids keeping a sap is fine because of innervate. Yeti is also good against them or any slower decks. Because of handlock’s explosion, BGH is a good card to keep against warlock even though in general you should mulligan for zoo.

Use your life as a resource. More than any other deck, yes even Handlock, tempo rogue uses their life to hold control of the game. With the Meta so bursty, you always need to be careful of your life total, but don’t shy away from trades because it’ll put you in range of an eight card combo.

With our weapon, eviscerate, charge minions, Shadowstep and SI Agents, we have various ways to get lethal from a decent hp. Always be on the lookout for lethal within the next two turns and set up accordingly.

Matchups

Vs Ramp Druid

Traditional ramp druid is a pretty slow deck. They have no playable minions from turn 1-3 usually and don’t really get going for a bit. Innervate can make things tough, but if they play a fair game, we have a solid game plan against them.

We need to kill their minions as soon as they hit the battlefield if possible because getting them taunted up via mark-of-the-wild is what lets them stabilize. The longer you can keep them under pressure, the more you can delay them from stabilizing and chip away at their HP. For such a slow deck, their draw options are mediocre aside from ancient-of-lore, so with our many ways of killing their sub-six drops, we can keep card parity while staying on the offensive. The basic tenets of tempo apply. Take advantage of their slow start. Make them pay for playing a Cairne or spending their turn 7 drawing 2 cards. Smart ramp players will use their removal spells liberally because they just want to have a relatively clear board and survive until the ancient of lore and Cenarius starts dropping. Try to make that awkward for them by creating a board that’s good against swipe. Yeti, drakes, harvest golems are some of our best cards against them.

Mulligan: Since they’re a slower deck, Yeti is a fine keep. If you’re sure they’re ramp druid, you can even keep black knight in your opener.

Vs Handlock

Probably our toughest matchup. While we have more direct damage than most decks, it’s still unlikely to have 10+ points of it in hand, and when Handlock has 2 giants taunted up, it’s tough to finish the game.

The most important thing to do against Handlock is NOT to trade our minions against theirs. Their minions vastly out-scale ours, and we simply can’t trade profitably. With their superior card advantage, we can’t lose 2+ minions for one of theirs.  Try to bring them around 14-16 as fast as you can and then refrain from attacking unless you can OTK them or bring them within burn range for the following turn. Playing a molten-giant is fine for them, but if you have lethal and they don’t have the mana to taunt up, it doesn’t do much. Save your eviscerates for face.

It’s usually a good idea to sap a twilight drake or Mountain Giant before they’re taunted up. It sets them back a turn and we’re never winning the long game against them anyway. If Sap is a 2 mana take an extra turn, that’s completely fine. BGH is your best card against them. If you have Shadowstep in hand after BGH kills a giant, Shadowstep it immediately. Don’t wait to do 4 damage next turn. They’ll soulfire or siphon-soul it immediately. Don’t take the chance and take your guaranteed 2 giants for 1 special to go.

Mulligan: Mulliganing against handlock is tough because you always have to mull for zoo. Keeping BGH is fine if handlock is really popular. Sap is also a good keep if you’re betting on handlock.

Vs Control Warrior

Our other toughest matchup. This is a bit easier than Handlock though because they have to stabilize through actually killing your guys since they have no taunts. The problem is they have an almost endless supply of it and unlike Handlock their hero ability gives them tons of extra effective HP.

Against warriors, we can be more aggressive with our daggers and their face. With them gaining armor constantly, lethal can get further and further away. We want every bit of damage we can do. Always ignore Armorsmith. If it gains a bunch of armor make him work for it, don’t make the trades for him. Always try to keep their armor count low so he can’t get your yeti or drake via shield slam without shield block. Be especially aggressive with dagger if he has armor.

Try to save Harrison Jones for Gorehowl, but getting a 1 or 2 durability axe is fine. He shouldn’t be in a position to hit our bigger guys with Gorehowl multiple times anyway, and if he is chances are we weren’t going to win the game regardless. Our best card against him is argent commander. Divine shield in general is great against them because all of his kill spells are damage based, so they usually have to spend 2 cards to get rid of it.

Mulligan: This is one of the slowest decks in the format, so keeping a Yeti is always good. You can even keep argent commander if you have a few other early drops.

Vs Tempo Shaman

Some people mistakenly think tempo shaman is a bad matchup for us, but that’s not really the case. We’re both playing the tempo game, and while he has great cards for it like lightning-bolt and feral-spirit, they have significant setbacks that our tempo cards don’t. It can be daunting to look at 2 2/3 taunt minions across the board when we have nothing or maybe just a dagger, but understand that we’re working with our full mana this turn and the next turn while he doesn’t have the same luxury. That gives us more time to stabilize the board. Plan ahead according to his overload.

Their tons of cheap removal do make up for the overload somewhat, but our minions are tough to 1 for 1 even with their solid removal. On the other hand, our removals combined with dagger can take out most of their things. Blade flurry is our best card against them. Save it for a good board clear, even if you have to take some extra damage. You want to take out some feral spirits with it. They don’t have any way to gain life, so once you have the tempo advantage, start thinking of lethal. It’ll come sooner than you think.

Mulligan: Blade flurry is always a keep because of how powerful it can be. Blood Knight is a must keep, and you can be the patient with it in this matchup. Between the 2 of us there are usually 8 targets for blood knight.

Vs Zoo

One of our best matchups. Our removal just crushes them. With a coin, SI7 Agent is their worst fears realized. A traditional tempo deck does just fine against them, but we even have blood knight to make us heavier favorites. If you can get a Yeti taunted up with them not having an overwhelming board, they usually can’t come back from that.

The two best cards in their deck against us is a Doomguard that doesn’t discard anything of consequence or Voidwalker if played early. It usually negates your 1 or 2 drops. Early game you want to establish board control, so don’t worry about value. Use eviscerate without combo to kill a flame imp. Dagger a 1 durability weapon if it’ll let you play a minion that turn.  Aggressively trade for board control. He’ll deal himself enough damage from hero power.

Blade flurry is amazing against them, but we have enough removal to not rely on that. All of their direct damage/charge discards each other, so we are usually safe if we can stabilize anywhere from 7-10 hp. Be aware of when to go on the offensive.

Mulligan: Keep as much removal as you can. Sap isn’t worth it so throw it back. For minions, SI Agent and Blood Knight are the only 3 drops worth keeping. Chuck everything else 3+.

Vs Miracle Rogue

The boogeyman of the current Meta, but I’m confident tempo rogue has a good matchup against it. We have a constant stream of minions while they don’t get started until turn 4-5. The game against miracle rogue essentially comes down to a race, so you want to take as few damage with dagger as possible, and every damage they take from dagger is a small victory. Once they get the auctioneer chain going, the card advantage will usually end the game, but our many value minions will ensure he’s in the hole deep if auctioneer isn’t there to bail him out. There’s some life gain in the deck, but he has no taunt and the life gain is not enough. A good Argus usually stretches his resources a bit too much, especially if he doesn’t have sap.

Never be greedy with Harrison Jones. The game comes down to a race as I said, and to win the race you need to be ahead on tempo. Getting a one durability poison dagger or even regular dagger puts a 5/4 on the board, destroys their weapon making him spend 2 mana to get it back and draws you a card. That’s a brilliant tempo edge.

Miracle rogue is a deck built around burst damage, so it’s understandable to be paranoid about life totals even when you’re upwards of 20 life, but we need to look past that. Sure 1 in 40 games the guy will have a 20 damage burst on turn 7 naturally drawn, but it’s not realistic for us to play around it. If going to face with Argent Commander will give you lethal in the next two turns, maybe doing that is better than killing his SI7 Agent, even if he would have lethal with the Agent in play in some convoluted scenario. Play the odds. Most likely he doesn’t have the burst, and he’ll be on the defensive with his damage spells because you became the aggressor. If you go on the defensive, it gives him time to fish for the burst.

Mulligan: Probably the only matchup where leeroy jenkins can be worth keeping. The game will come down to who can burst first, and being able to name a HP from where you have lethal from the start of the game is very useful. Harrison Jones is also a keep, even though it’s a 5 drop.

Vs Freeze Mage

I dislike playing against this deck not because it’s a terrible matchup, but because there’s very little counter play available to us.  Ice-block gives him a guaranteed extra turn, no way around it. His freeze spells buys him a turn of damage, and without silence we can’t do much about it. We have good burst and direct damage as well as early pressure, so the matchup is far from unwinnable, but there’s no special strategy against them. You play your minions on curve, sit through the ice age and hopefully he doesn’t have double giants ice block when you have lethal.

Mulligan: Keeping Yeti is fine because Freeze mage gets off the ground slow. Don’t keep argus unless harvest golem is also in hand. Other than that, the usual applies.

Vs Token Druid

Token druid can also be called tempo druid, and the matchup heavily depends upon whether he draws innervate and can put it to good use. Innervate lets him get a huge tempo edge by having a turn 1 harvest golem in play or the turn 4 dream of the 4/6 violet teacher and 2 2/2 students.

While innervate is a great tempo play, it does sacrifice a card to do so. Meaning if we can deal with the innervated minion with 1 card, we are up in card advantage, even if we have to take some extra damage in the process. An innervated Yeti that dies to SI Agent combo’d out is pretty good, even if you have taken 4-8 damage by the Yeti.

Both decks are trying to race, but our removals are better and cheaper. He does have better late game cards in Ancient of lore and more reliable burst, but cards like Argent Commander and black knight usually means he doesn’t have the luxury to use turn 7 in peace. Never play around more than 14 damage burst from force-of-nature and savage-roar. He could have innervated second savage roar, but that’s not likely. Also don’t play around the combo if you’re dead to it regardless. If he has the combo you’re dead whether you have 14 life or 11, so take that extra 3 damage if that’ll help you get lethal faster.

Mulligan: Keep Sap and Yeti. The Black Knight isn’t worth keeping if you’re hedging on it being token druid, since they only run 2 taunt minions, and most often Druid of the Claw will be played in cat form. Keep Blood Knight but wait for a target.

Legendary Replacements

Some legends in the deck can’t be replaced on a simple 1 to 1 switch. They’re a fundamental part of how the deck functions, and replacing them means the synergies that make the deck work is now absent. So we need to change the deck to function differently.

Bloodmage-Thalnos: Both abilities of Thalnos are great for this deck, but our version of the deck can’t really afford to give up any more card draw. Try adding a Gnomish-Inventor and replacing the Harrison Jones with an Azure Drake. 5 mana spell buff isn’t the same as 2 mana, but its fine, especially with the added card draw.

Leeroy-Jenkins: Leeroy is here for the bursty finish, and arcane golem is a subpar replacement for it. Without the burst, we want to go more midrange, meaning increasing our curve a bit for stronger minions. Add a Gnomish Inventor and Azure drake for Leeroy and Shadowstep, giving you more presence in the midgame while keeping your hand full. Adding something like a Spiteful-Smith for an early drop like Blood Knight can be good as well, giving you a better suite of strong minions.

The-Black-Knight: TBK is one of the best tempo cards in the game. It can be replaced with Sap or Assassinate or just a big body minion like Spiteful Smith. Sap sacrifices card advantage for tempo while assassinate slows the game down. With Sap, taking advantage of the tempo boost is paramount, so you might want to add another good 3-4 drop taking out Shadowstep. Make it awkward for him to replay the guy. With Assassinate, since the game goes longer you want superior card advantage. Incorporate a Sprint somewhere.

Harrison-Jones: This one is actually easy. Replace with Azure Drake and call it a day. I’ve always ran Drake and only switched to Harrison Jones recently because of Miracle Rogue. I’m still not convinced Harrison is better.

Sideboard

A deck is not a rigid set of 30 cards. It shifts and flows based on the Meta. Below are some of the cards I regularly side in and out depending on how the Meta is moving:

Perditions-Blade: A great card against face hunter or zoo decks. The battlecry is useful enough that you can play it without combo and it can be just as good.

Assassins-Blade: It’s great against miracle, control warrior and freeze mage, meaning it’s time might be now. It’s not nearly as good against decks like zoo or druids, and it’s a bit too slow for the deck sometimes.

Assassinate: A little slow and doesn’t really fit the tempo game plan, but when druids start playing ancient-of-war and people start relying on superior minions for board control instead of removal, unconditional removal is good to have.

Edwin-Vancleef: It’s a very good minion for the cost. If zoo isn’t very prevalent in the format, VanCleef is likely better than Blood Knight. At rank 3 or above, zoo phases out a bit, so I’d recommend VanCleef over Blood Knight at that level. It is much worse against silence however.

Spiteful-Smith: A great body for the cost, especially if you get to taunt it up. It’s one of the best 5 drop in the game available to tempo rogue if midrange decks are running rampant because it’s tremendous for board control.

Captain-Greenskin: What’s better than a 3/2 poison dagger? A 4/3 poison dagger. It’s actually staggering how much better it is. The battlecry seems innocuous at first, but it’s very powerful. Captain Greenskin is a playable card at pretty much any Meta. Azure Drake usually comes before it though.

Dark-Iron-Dwarf: I’ve played it in place of Yeti before and it’s pretty good.  The lost health made me go back to Yeti, and the fact that it’s awkward to play it without having a minion in play. The Dwarf is very good for board control when he’s good and he provides a much bigger tempo swing than Yeti. Has synergy with Shadowstep, provides immediate benefits and can give you Big Game Hunter targets against decks that have none.

Sprint: Biggest card draw spell in the game. The Meta is just too slow for me to play it right now, but it’s a staple in my deck whenever the Meta slows down a bit.

Those are the most frequently used cards I’ve sided in and out, but there are many others. Try out new things yourself and see which ones you like. I never would’ve realized how good Captain Greenskin was if my friend Joeaeae hadn’t played a pirate based rogue deck against me, leading me to try a similar deck in ranked. It failed miserably, but the Captain always over performed.

Closing

Tempo Rogue is not an easy deck to play. You will need to put in the work and keep up with the meta. One of the most important aspects of the deck is forcing your opponent to use his/her mana ineffectively, and it’s hard to do that without having a good idea of how he’d like to use it. The deck is not the most powerful in the format or the fastest, but it has solid synergies and very flexible. It can be customized to fit your style and pretty much any meta.

I hope this guide gets you to play my favorite deck in Hearthstone and helps you climb further in the ladder. It’s a tough deck, but incredibly rewarding. Every season I start off trying a different deck, but always come back to tempo rogue. I haven’t found something better yet. Feel free to ask me questions about the deck on anubomb#1882, NA, or in the comments below!