Hearthstone History Part IV: Are You Ready For A Miracle?

Hey guys, welcome to another installment of Hearthstone History! For today’s installment we will be taking a look at the most controversial deck in Hearthstone – Miracle Rogue! We will not only be talking about Miracle Rogue but the Rogue class in general, focusing on the combo style plays and how the class fared through […]

Hey guys, welcome to another installment of Hearthstone History! For today’s installment we will be taking a look at the most controversial deck in Hearthstone – Miracle Rogue! We will not only be talking about Miracle Rogue but the Rogue class in general, focusing on the combo style plays and how the class fared through the years. To check out the previous installment of the series where we talked about Handlock, you can check out – Hearthstone History Part III: The King of Control 

Miracle Rogue is one of the oldest decks in Hearthstone and the archetype was formed right in the beta days of the game. While a lot of people might think the ‘Miracle’ archetype refers to drawing cards and finishing off opponents with massive burst combos it is not the case. There is a minion ‘Quirion Dryad’ in Magic: The Gathering which functions almost the same way as Questing Adventurer and is part of the ‘Miracle Gro’ deck, which inspired the name for our loved and hated Rogue deck. It has been one of the most problematic decks in Hearthstone with a ton of nerfs put in effect to keep the power levels of Miracle Rogue in check. Let us take a look at how each of the content updates changed things around for the archetype and the class in general.

Classic Era: The Brotherhood Prevails

With the beta Miracle Rogue being extremely overpowered there have been a considerable amount of nerfs before the release of the game. The Rogue hero power itself was different back in the day and unlike the version of ‘Dagger Mastery’ we see right now, if you already had a weapon equipped, you would be able to use the hero power to add +1 attack to your weapon, allowing you to setup massive burst damage combos with Blade Flurry. Some of the notable component of the deck that were nerfed in the early stages of the game include:

  • Dagger Mastery: The nerf removed the weapon buff potential of the hero power.
  • Edwin VanCleef: Edwin used to stealthed itself when it was summoned and it was a 1/1 minion in its base form. The stealth effect meant that it led to a lot of non-interactive damage simply by playing cheap cards and then dropping a 3 mana Edwin VanCleef.
  • Mana Addict: The minion used to gain +3 attack instead of +2 and you could simply Conceal two of these and setup massive bursts using your cheap cards.
  • Conceal: Conceal used to be a 0 mana spell. Conceal is one of the most powerful spells in the Rogue arsenal even at 1 mana and it leads to a lot of non-interactive damage that opponents can do nothing about. While the power level of Rogue right now is not too high, but the card might come into the limelight if it has overpowered synergy with future cards.
  • Shiv: It was a 1 mana spell, the mana cost was raised by 1. It allowed Rogue decks to cycle a bit too efficiently, even in its current form Shiv sees play in some Rogue decks.
  • Headcrack: Headcrack was a 2 mana spell, the mana cost was raised by 1. Ever since the card was nerfed, it stopped seeing play in competitive decks.

Once these nerfs to the deck were in place, the archetype saw little or no play for months up until the arrival of the Leeroy burst based decks. The deck moved away Mana Addicts and chose to go for the Leeroy Jenkins, Shadowstep and Cold Blood combo which would kill opponents from almost full health from no board presence at all. The ability to draw with cards like Gadgetzan Auctioneer made it possible for Rogues to get to their combo pieces very consistently. It was dominant on ladder for months and Blizzard had to step down yet again to nerf the deck by increasing the cost of Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Leeroy Jenkins by 1 mana each. Leeroy was a very problematic card in not only Rogue but also in Handlock back in the day because of the Power Overwhelming and Faceless Manipulator combo which could end games easily. People also used Leeroy with Unleash the Hounds and Timber Wolf for some crazy damage. Leeroy continued to be a viable card in many aggressive decks but the inability to use the Shadowstep combo with the card rendered Miracle Rogue with this specific finisher useless and the deck died out for quite a few months until the GvG era.

Curse of Naxxramas: I See You!

Loatheb became the final nail in the coffin and Rogue fell out of favor once the nerfs to Gadgetzan Auctioneer and Leeroy Jenkins were in place. Nothing in Naxxramas helped Rogue much and cards like Sludge Belcher and Loatheb only made it harder for the class. The rise of Undertaker Hunter was also very concerning and it was months until Rogue began to come to the forefront yet again.

Goblins vs Gnomes: Enter the Sharpsword

tinkers-sharpsword-oil singlehandedly formed a new archetype for Rogue and the deck became one of the most consistent tournament decks in the game of all time. Oil Rogue replaced Miracle Rogue and the breath of fresh air that one single card added to the class was unimaginable. With plenty of burst potential and insane combos that you could pull off while maintaining the same tempo style of plays Rogue is known for kept the deck going. Oil allowed Rogues to make the most out of Blade Flurry and being able to wipe out boards as well as dealing face damage in the process was really insane. While people began to run faster decks and Rogue used to have a hard time versus aggro, players like Mr. Yagut played the deck almost always and clocked thousands of wins with the deck and finished at high legend ranks season after season. The deck performed admirably in the meta initially and dr-boom, Piloted Shredder and sometimes Antique Healbot became part of the deck and helped Rogue as a class a lot. Even though the expansion was Mech themed, Rogue was unable to make a viable Mech deck going.

Blackrock Mountain: The Essence of Magic Returns

Malygos Rogue joined in the fray and there were no tools that helped the Miracle Rogue archetype. With Emperor Thaurissan, Malygos Rogue began to see some play but Oil Rogue continued to be popular due to their massive burst and AoE potential. Even though the number of Rogues began to diminish on ladder, Rogue purists continued to do well with the deck and achieved high ranks even in unfavorable metas. Dark Iron Skulker was a great card that came out in the adventure but the card did not see play in a frequent basis because Blade Flurry was just better, but Skulker did come to the forefront once Flurry was nerfed and it sees play in a lot of Miracle Rogue decks these days.

The Grand Tournament: Challenging the Challenger

Grim Patron Warrior and Secret Paladin were two decent matchups for Rogue and the TGT era was really fun and Oil Rogue did well versus both of these decks unless of course Grim Patron decks OTK’d you, but the ladder representation of the deck was not very high and planning for their OTK turns helped a lot in buying time and ending games yourself. In the initial period of the expansion, there was a rise in Dragon Priest allowing Rogue to make full use of their natural advantage over Priest as a class to sneak in those wins in the artificially slow meta until the Secret Paladin decks got refined.

Once Grim Patron was nerfed, Patron Warrior continued to be popular because they were favored against aggressive decks and since their burst potential was gone Rogues had a much better time facing them because the Oil Rogue did not have to worry about one turn kills anymore. Secret Paladin became the number one deck and Rogue did fairly well versus the deck thanks to the mass clears and tools like Sap. Combo Druid started becoming a popular matchup and with Sludge Belcher and Loatheb in the arsenal for both decks, it was a very exciting matchup for the deck. Even though Rogue was considered to be a weak class the top 2 finalists of Blizzcon had Oil Rogue in their lineup, proving the deck was very good in the competitive setup and it could work wonders when in the right hands.

League of Explorers: Pillaging and Plundering

A lot of people love how well LoE was designed and the amount of cool cards the expansion had but one card that really won me over was Tomb Pillager. While Shredder continued to dominate the 4 mana slot, I saw a lot of potential in Tomb Pillager and the card did not disappoint in the long term because it is the 4 drop of choice for all Rogue decks. It led to the revival of Miracle Rogue because the extra coins meant that you could effectively play your Gadgetzan and Conceal combo on turn 6 as usual, like the old days. But Rogue as a class was not doing well at all because Aggro Shaman became very popular with Tunnel Trogg allowing aggressive Shaman decks to do really well.

Whispers of the Old Gods: Goodbye Old Friends

Blade Flurry was nerfed during the first Standard rotation and cards like Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil and Sludge Belcher left us. It led to the resurgence of Miracle Rogue and cards like Gadgetzan and Leeroy made a comeback with Rogue being very powerful in the initial months of Standard but the rise of aggressive decks pushed back the class yet again. It continues to see play in tournaments and the class does need some help because of its inefficiency when it comes to dealing with aggressive minions and the lack of good AoE options has been one of the biggest concerns. Undercity Huckster and Shadow Strike became popular inclusions in the deck. xaril-poisoned-mind is a great minion and despite the negativity surrounding the stats of the minion, it proved to be a decent minion in Miracle Rogue decks because the extra 1 mana spells are very effective in enabling combos and can be used flexibly. A lot of people tried to make tempo oriented N’zoth decks or hybrid N’zoth Miracle decks, but none of them have been meta-breaking so far.

One Night In Karazhan And The Future Of Combo Rogue Decks

One Night in Karazhan had nothing much to offer, mostly because the expansion wanted to focus on stealing opponent cards and it’s a fun archetype Blizzard wants to promote. People did try to make the right mix of both Miracle and ‘Thief’ Rogue archetypes and have found success with such decks, Miracle continues to dominate at the top end of the ladder more than the fun variants of Rogue decks. While a lot of people are of the opinion that Blizzard does not like combo decks, a recent interview where Dean Ayala (Iksar), a game designer for Hearthstone stated that brought to light some interesting perspective – “I would say it’s likely Rogue will be more weapon focused than Shaman in most expansions, there will be some sets where Shaman will get a weapon that makes that not the case. Rogue has a 3-4 playable fun decks right now, though not all of them have reached a high population of players. As far as the future goes, we think it’s fine for Rogue to have minion based strategies, but want to make sure they have some combo-centric high power level decks, too. Some amount of the Rogue and Priest player audience gets excited by playing combo-reactive decks so we want to support that.” This means that there is a lot to come for the class and the Miracle archetype is expected to get some fresh tools in the upcoming content updates.

Rogue has always been my favorite class and I am excited for what is to come in the upcoming expansions and adventures. Tomb Pillager moving out next year is what saddens me the most because of how good the minion is, and it showed us how a single card can make a big difference  for an entire archetype. Hope you guys had fun walking down the memory lane and I hope to see you guys soon in the next installment of the Hearthstone History series in the coming week where I will be talking about old school OTK decks so stay tuned!