Just for Fun: Cyber-Ninja Rogue

Hey, guys. It’s RaFive. Today I’m bringing you one of the most fun decks I’ve played since I started this series -- the Cyber-Ninja Rogue!

Introduction

Hey, guys. It’s RaFive. Today I’m bringing you one of the most fun decks I’ve played since I started this series — the Cyber-Ninja Rogue!

Goblins vs. Gnomes isn’t really about goblins or gnomes, at heart. It’s really about mechs. There are other playstyles enabled by the expansion, but mech synergies are particularly powerful and have taken a central role in the current metagame. With a solid pool of neutral mechs at all the most important spots on the mana curve, and a strong selection of class-based mechs, pretty much any class these days can rely on mechs for a decent amount of success.

This is especially good news for Rogue, which has suffered hard in the wake of the Gadgetzan Auctioneer nerf. Miracle Rogue, already only a tiny presence on the ladder, has pretty much disappeared. We needed a breath of fresh air, and with GvG, Rogue gets some new potential in the midrange. I’ve constructed a deck that uses mech synergies and the buffing power of Iron Sensei to make strong tempo plays in the early game, with Ogre Ninja serving as a powerful, relatively inexpensive finisher that’s almost impossible to remove before he attacks. The mech synergies plus the martial-arts flavor of the deck and the slicey-dicey Rogue hero power makes Cyber-Ninja Rogue a blast to play. I can honestly say several of the games I’ve played with this list have been among the most fun I’ve had in Hearthstone. This is a skill-based deck that’s enormously rewarding to play at a high level.

Overview

A seasoned player will instantly see from one look at the minion costs that the build here is for tempo. The mana curve has been carefully calibrated to be able to lay down strong pressure in the early game with Cogmaster and Mechwarper, consolidate the early lead with Iron Sensei and Tinkertown Technician, and then use strong midgame value minions like Mechanical Yeti to batter away at the board and the opponent’s face while you lay down Ogre Ninja for a Cold Blood finish. Loatheb ensures you can continue to press a board advantage (or recover one against control), and one Antique Healbot helps you last longer and use your life as a resource more freely in conjunction with Goblin Auto-Barber, who here replaces Deadly Poison.

The usual Rogue value cards make their way into the list. With strong early minions that trade well, Sap becomes cheap hard removal for strong cards that’s more efficient than silence effects. Double Fan of Knives keeps your deck cycling and also improves your matchup against Hunter, tokens, and other swarming minions. Eviscerate is extremely efficient removal — you usually won’t use it to hit the face in this deck — and the list rounds out with a single copy of Sprint to refill if the game goes long.

Best of all, it’s an inexpensive deck that runs no epics, no legendaries, and one swappable card from Naxxramas, making it a solid pick for newer or F2P players.

How to Play

Mulligan is particularly crucial with tempo decks. You absolutely need a strong 2-mana minion in your opening hand if you want to win with this deck, and having something on turn 1 is also strongly preferable. You can always hold a single 1-drop. If you don’t have a 2-drop in your opening hand, throw everything back (except a single 1-drop, of course). Never hold 4-drops unless you draw a turn 1 play, Mechwarper, and another solid turn 1-2 card. Always hold Mechwarper. Hold Cogmaster in preference to Clockwork Gnome except against Warrior (Gnome is better vs. Fiery War Axe). Don’t hold any spells except potentially Fan of Knives in a Hunter matchup if you’re going second. Never hold any of your 5-cost cards. Don’t hold Iron Sensei unless you’re going second and have solid minions to play in the first two turns.

Cogmaster is usually your strongest turn 1 play, and Mechwarper is your strongest on turn 2. The idea here is to get stickier minions out quicker and cheaper than your opponent can, taking early control of the board and maintaining pressure for a midgame win. Board control is very important in this deck. Make sure you’re trading favorably, and generally speaking, put stickier minions down before more aggressive minions unless you have reason to believe your opponent lacks effective removal.

The deck is minion-heavy for a Rogue list (22 minions, 8 spells) to ensure you reliably draw minions to play on curve. This leaves you a little lacking in the instant-do-stuff-from-your-hand department, which is why the six Spare Part generators (Clockwork Gnome, Tinkertown Technician, and Mechanical Yeti) are so important. They keep your card advantage up and give you marginal spell utility that will prove absolutely crucial to maintaining effective board control. I’m not exaggerating when I say that most of my games with this deck have been won or lost based on how effectively I was able to use the Spare Parts I drew. Don’t be too conservative with them, but make sure you deploy them judiciously in ways that swing the tempo your way, and don’t forget that they’re effective and cheap triggers to activate the Combo effects of Eviscerate and Cold Blood.

You’ll want to use your hero power mainly to control the board, although daggers to the face are also important in this deck. There isn’t any Deadly Poison in the list, but Goblin Auto-Barber serves essentially the same purpose with better tempo (because it puts a body on the board). Mechwarper on turn 2 followed by hero power + Auto-Barber on turn 3 is an extremely strong play that will almost always leave you in control of the board.

As a rule, you’ll find your games wrapping up without the use of your heaviest minions, but Ogre Ninja is your finisher if tempo itself doesn’t do the job for you. The Ninja is almost impossible to remove before he attacks, can stay under the radar as long as necessary while you clear away unfavorable trades, and trades evenly or better with every minion at his cost. Coupled with Cold Blood, he’s pretty terrifying and will shut your opponent down quickly. His downside is played around easily enough — I’ve found him a highly underrated minion thus far.

I played this list about midway up ladder (ranks 11-9) and went 10-5 over my last 15 games, although I drew into some amazing starts, so this may be on the higher end of variance. Matchups for this deck are pretty solid in the current metagame. Lack of Blade Flurry means it’s a comparatively weak list against Shaman, and Taunt-heavy Druid builds are also a problem even with double Sap because they can roll out large minions ahead of your curve with Innervate. Lack of burst can make Handlock problematic, although Ogre Ninja on the board with Cold Blood and Eviscerate in hand will win you a lot of games. The Mage matchup is decent except against decks running Snowchugger, which locks down early weapon plays and makes your board control strategy more difficult but isn’t worth spending a Sap or Eviscerate. All the other matchups should be even or better, and the Hunter matchup in particular is excellent thanks to high tempo, better-valued minions, and double Fan of Knives.

Substitutions

This list is surprisingly flexible. The spells are meta-dependent (although I’d always run double Eviscerate and Sap, personally) and can be swapped out depending on your needs. Blade Flurry is weak in this deck without Deadly Poison or a weapon, but if you go more weapon-heavy it’s a vastly better board clear than Fan of Knives and should replace one copy. In an aggro-heavy metagame, Sprint is too slow and should probably be replaced with Shiv or a Loot Hoarder.

The mechs are the most important part of the deck, and are generally not substitutable, having been carefully selected for maximum board impact and tempo. You can swap out one Goblin Auto-Barber for meta tech if need be (perhaps Bloodmage Thalnos if you need more draw, since he enables Fan of Knives to be a much better board clear), and you can also replace Spider Tank with a second Iron Sensei for a consistent snowball effect (although this will make you significantly more vulnerable to getting irretrievably behind if you lose board in the first two turns). You could also make room for Sensei by taking out a Tinkertown Technician, although I really like the Tech because its Battlecry is so high-value and can be so consistently triggered with this list. Antique Healbot can be swapped for Earthen Ring Farseer in aggro-heavy metas.

Surprisingly enough, the tempo is strong enough in this deck that Ogre Ninja doesn’t end up deciding the game all that often. This means he’s somewhat flexible, although the combination of 6/6 stats, 5 cost, and stealth all add up to a pretty sweet package for a midrange deck. If you find his downside too inconsistent, Stranglethorn Tiger makes a fine substitute. You might even run Fel Reaver here. I’m not sure I’d replace both to prevent the minion count getting too low, but Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil serves a similar purpose in this deck as the Ninjas and can serve as a substitute. Last but not least, you could probably replace one Ninja with Gazlowe as a funnel for converting extra Spare Parts into later-game minion advantage.

I’ll provide a final suggestion for the most daring deckbuilders — let’s call this variant the Revengeance Rogue. Take out all the 5-cost cards, replace Piloted Shredder with Enhance-o-Mechano, replace Mechanical Yeti with Jeeves, put in double Annoy-o-Tron, an extra Iron Sensei, an extra Cold Blood, and a Southsea Deckhand. Replace Fan of Knives with a Deadly Poison and a Blade Flurry. Swap Tinkertown Technician for Arcane Golem and Spider Tank for something like Conceal or Gilblin Stalker. Then proceed to slice and dice your opponent with a faster, more weapon-heavy build that snowballs off Iron Sensei with Jeeves as a quick refill.

Conclusion

Rogue is a class in need of a comeback. After seeing how hard this list can blow out, I’m thinking a midrange mech list might just be the vehicle for putting Rogue back in the spotlight. The metagame hasn’t settled yet, and all decks are to some extent experimental, but this Rogue feels solid and should serve the skilled player well on ladder. I’m looking forward to seeing some ninja action on ladder — get out there and build a better metagame!