Let’s Brew! Episode 4: Pirate Rogue

Check out Newton's attempt at reviving the Rogue class by utilizing the synergy of Pirates! Can Shady Dealer and Buccaneer help propel Rogue back to relevance?

List of Episodes

Introduction

As stated in the Episode 4 Prequel, my motivation for trying to brew a Pirate Rogue deck is the fact that Rogue is currently the least played class in all of Hearthstone post-TGT expansion. However, the expansion brought with it two new additions to the Rogue Pirate archetype: Buccaneer and Shady Dealer. If you include the neutral skycap’n kragg, that totals 3 new Pirate-related cards.

In addition to wanting to revitalize the Rogue class, I felt the construction/updating of a Pirate Rogue deck served as an excellent example of how to evaluate cards when building around a particular theme/idea. As stated in the Let’s Brew! pilot episode, the point of Let’s Brew! is to focus on the mentality and mindset that goes behind constructing a competitive ladder deck.

At the bottom of this article, the voting options and their corresponding descriptions for the next episode are listed once again. Please remember to vote for your favorite option(s)! 🙂

Initial Research

Starting Point

Any good deck builder/brewer realizes that he’s probably not the first person to come up with a deck idea. Moreover similar to Mechs, Dragons, and Murlocs, Pirates is an actually a minion sub-type in Hearthstone. As a result, I wanted to see what Pirate ideas were already floating on the web. A quick and simple Google search on “Legend Pirate Deck” yielded me with Xixo’s Pirate Rogue Deck. I considered Xixo’s list a good starting point as there was already evidence of success during the Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion. With all this said, let’s get started with my analysis of his GvG choices to see how they fare against today’s expected meta-game!

Backstab – Backstab has long been a staple in all Rogue archetypes since the Classic set. It provides removal for no mana while also being an excellent Combo enabler for cards like Eviscerate and SI:7 Agent.

Verdict: Auto-include

Cold Blood – Cold Blood has nice synergy with Argent Squire and Southsea Deckhand. Despite the potential for high damage throughput however, it requires board control and is generally only good when you’re even or already ahead.

Verdict: Viable

Deadly Poison – In addition to being a solid removal spell and indirect card advantage (usually a 2-for-1), Deadly Poison is also good for reducing the cost of Dread Corsair and increasing the damage throughput/impact of Captain Greenskin. Therefore, it indirectly rewards/incentivizes you to play additional Pirates (already a goal).

Verdict: Auto-include

Blade Flurry – With Deadly Poison being an auto-include, Blade Flurry becomes a strong candidate to consider. It helps win aggro mirrors and has the potential to steal games. Check out how I was able to beat Kripp despite being frozen by his Freeze spells: link here.

Verdict: Strong Candidate

Eviscerate – Similar to Backstab and Deadly Poison, Eviscerate serves as very efficient removal. However, Eviscerate also has the potential to deal 4 immediate damage through big Taunt minions, giving the deck additional reach. Once again, this card has been in every Rogue archetype since the Classic set.

Verdict: Auto-include

Goblin Auto-Barber – In a deck with Pirates, boosting the attack of your weapon is relevant. However, the main strike against Goblin Auto-Barber is that he isn’t a Pirate. Despite indirectly aiding your Dread Corsair and Captain Greenskin through his weapon boost, he does not provide any other Pirate synergy. Moreover, the 3/2 body isn’t desirable since he trades down to minions such as Leper Gnome.

Verdict: Viable

One-eyed Cheat – One-eyed Cheat has the potential to generate a ton of damage. If you’re able to chain Pirates over several turns to keep him in Stealth mode, odds are you’ll be able to win the game (due to the heavy pressure you put on your opponent). However, the reality is that this is much easier said than done as he dies to just about anything with that 4/1 body. Therefore, I definitely would not play more than one (if even that).

Verdict: Viable

SI:7 Agent – While SI:7 Agent is not a Pirate and does not directly benefit from your ability to play Pirates, he offers tremendous value by removing an opposing 2 health threat while leaving you with a solid 3/3 body. This is one scenario where a card is too powerful to ignore, even if he does not fit in with the theme. A current example of this kind of thinking/philosophy is the inclusion of Dr. Boom in aggro decks.

Verdict: Strong Candidate

Argent Squire – Argent Squire has been in and out of Zoo-type decks since the Classic set. Though its 1-attack is not very frightening, she’s very resilient (due to Divine Shield) and therefore offers a steady amount of damage if played on turn 1. However, I would like her a lot more if she had Pirate synergy. She’s solid, if not spectacular.

Verdict: Viable

Southsea Deckhand – Virtually always being a 1 mana 2/1 Charge minion is already very good. Throw in the fact that Southsea Deckhand is a Pirate and you have yourself an auto-include. More subtly, Southsea Deckhand is a cheap activator for Ship’s Cannon. Between Buccaneer and Southsea Deckhand, Ship’s Cannon can more reliably Snipe opposing minions down.

Verdict: Auto-include

Bloodsail Raider – Bloodsail Raider offers the deck scalability over the course of the game. While a vanilla 2/3 is often ok on turn 2, he’ll often come down as a 5/3 (due to Deadly Poison) and therefore can deal a lot of damage if not dealt with. Flexibility is important here.

Verdict: Auto-include

Ship’s Cannon – Ship’s Cannon is probably the main reason to play a Pirate deck. Dealing two damage per Pirate is well above the curve. Another way to think of Ship’s Cannon is that it’s a Knife Juggler on steroids but has even more inherent random number generation (RNG).

Verdict: Auto-include

King Mukla – In general, I’ve never been a fan of King Mukla, even in Divine Favor decks. Don’t get me wrong, he’s amazing when you’re ahead and your opponent is struggling to keep up. However, he’s generally very bad when you’re behind and occasionally bad when you’re even with your opponent. In my opinion, the reward isn’t worth the risk.

Verdict: Chopping Block

Southsea Captain – If Ship’s Cannon is the primary reason to play a Pirate deck, Southsea Captain would be the secondary reason. “Lord” effects for tribal decks are generally very efficient. Though not quite as good as Murloc Warleader in a Murloc deck, Southsea Captain provides adequate stats as long as you have at least one other Pirate minion on board. Pun intended.

Verdict: Auto-include

Dread Corsair – For those who quickly forget, Dread Corsair was considered good enough to play in initial incarnations of Patron Warrior. Therefore, he seems like a logical fit into a Pirate-themed deck. The only kicker is that we’ll have to find a way to consistently reduce his mana cost by at least 2, making him a 2 mana 3/3.

Verdict: Strong Candidate

Jeeves – As many of you might already know, I’m no stranger to Divine Favor. Jeeves is essentially a “fixed” version of Divine Favor that every class has access to. With such a low mana curve for the deck, Jeeves provides excellent card draw/reach for the mid/late game.

Verdict: Strong Candidate

Captain Greenskin – With the weapon sub-theme being already inherent in Pirates, Captain Greenskin provides an additional way to increase the potency of Dread Corsair and potentially Blade Flurry. In a pinch, he surprises your opponents by pushing your smaller weapon into range of opposing larger minions.

Verdict: Strong Candidate

Loatheb – Loatheb has been a long-time fixture in many aggressive decks. Not only does he save your board from potential sweepers, he can frustrate opposing combo decks that need to reach a critical mass of spells to beat you. Finally, a 5 mana 5/5 minion to top your curve is nothing to sneeze at either.

Verdict: Strong Candidate

Obvious Inclusions

The arrival of The Grand Tournament gave us two excellent cards for incorporating into a Pirate deck: Buccaneer and Shady Dealer. There are some players out there who believe Buccaneer is an intriguing new card for Rogue, even in non-Pirate decks. This is due to its synergy with Rogue’s Hero Power. In addition, Shady Dealer further incentivizes us to run a Pirate sub-theme (the whole point of this article).

Buccaneer – Buccaneer allows us to get rid of One-eye Cheat while keeping up our density of Pirates. Moreover, he offers a nice turn 1 play while also increasing the impact of Dread Corsair and Captain Greenskin through his unique weapon boost ability.

Shady Dealer – Even without the Pirate buff, a 3 mana 4/3 is not terribly bad. However in the presence of a fellow Pirate, he becomes a 3 mana 5/4, which is well above the curve. Therefore, this is another obvious addition. The only complaint I have with this card is that Blizzard refused to make it a Pirate. As a result, there are 4 minions (two Ship’s Cannons and two Shady Dealers) that reward playing Pirates but isn’t one themselves.

Revision

For reference, my first iteration of the Pirate deck featured both Argent Squire and Cold Blood (instead of Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil and Blade Flurry) to establish early board presence. Having 6 one-drop minions available made the early game more consistent in my eyes. The inclusion of Cold Blood was meant to give the deck additional reach during the late-game. Overall, the deck wasn’t terribly bad but definitely had some issues to address.

Lack of Burst

With my initial version of the deck, I always felt as if the deck lacked the “special” factor. More specifically, the deck did not have much burst outside of Southsea Deckhand, Cold Blood, and Eviscerate. It also wasn’t as consistent as Zoo or Face Hunter and didn’t do anything seemingly broken/overpowered (OP) like Patron Warrior and Secret Paladin. As a result, the Pirate theme seemed more like a vulnerability as opposed to being the main reason to play the deck.

We Need More Oil

There is no shame in reusing ideas that have worked in the past. Luckily for us, there is actually already a strong viable Rogue archetype in the form of Oil Rogue. Most people associate Oil Rogue with its namesake card, Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil. The card is responsible for the deck’s signature burst of damage and often corresponding one-shot kill. With my first iteration of the deck lacking the “uniqueness factor”, it seemed very worthwhile to add in the card (in conjunction with Blade Flurry) for a quicker kill.

The results were quite fruitful as the deck seemed to perform better and ultimately propelled me up to rank 5 rather quickly amid a stretch of nice wins. Due to the addition of Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil, I was able to play Dread Corsair at a reduced cost more often. Moreover, the loss of Cold Blood was hardly felt due to the combo potential of Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil. Upon reaching rank 5 however, the deck began to struggle a bit more as a result of me playing against more serious players and the deck’s inconsistency becoming more apparent with a larger sample size. This was one of the trade-offs I accepted as a result of having only 4 one-drop minions in an aggro-based deck. Additionally, the deck only played two [situational] draw cards.

Final Take-Aways

Overall, the Pirate deck was quite fun to play. However, aside from Ship’s Cannon, I didn’t feel the deck rewarded me as much as it should have for playing Pirates. Southsea Captain can occasionally offer 8 (3/3 + 1/1) or 10 (3/3 + 1/1 + 1/1) points of stats for 3 mana. However, the drawback of having to play [sub-optimal] Pirates does not currently outweigh the card’s benefits. Stand-alone playable Pirates would need to be added to the existing Hearthstone card-pool. Similarly, Shady Dealer is only a 3 mana vanilla 5/4 (with Pirate condition met). There are currently better ways to achieve those stats without having to play sub-optimal Pirates.

By comparison, the Dragon Priest archetype is afforded the luxury of being able to play all-around good cards such as Azure Drake and Ysera to buff cards such as Twilight Whelp, Wyrmrest Agent, Twilight Guardian, and Blackwing Corruptor. At minimum, Dragon Priest has 8 cards that benefit from them playing Dragons. This does not even include Blackwing Technician and Chillmaw.

The most important lesson to take away from this deck-building experience is recognizing when to put-aside your efforts for another day. This does not mean you should quit on your deck. Using Pirate Rogue as an example, I will wait for the day that Blizzard prints additional cards to support the Pirate strategy (probably sooner than later). Long before Grim Patron was introduced to the game, I knew Warsong Commander, Frothing Berserker, and Battle Rage were good cards without a perfect deck home yet. If I wanted to, I probably could have painstakingly grinded my version of Pirate Rogue to Legend this season at just above a 50% win-rate. However, this sacrifices opportunity cost, namely the ability to test other potential hidden gems/cards. On that note, I believe we’re all better off exploring untapped potential! Listed below are the options for the next Let’s Brew! (Episode 5) article. 🙂

Next Episode

Option 1: Discard Warlock – Stonekeep

Eloise tried playing the similar deck at the ATLC – it’s the aggressive Zoo Warlock build using a cards that discard others. This effect is offset thanks to the dumping your hand really fast (having no other cards in the hand means they have no negative effect) and using Fist of Jaraxxus to deal even more (random) damage.

Option 2: Hero Power Mage (previous runner-up) – Stonekeep

Mage deck based around Hero Power and Inspire. Using cards that boost your Hero Power’s damage, reduces the cost etc. and the ones that benefit from you hitting the button. The deck plays rather grindy game, the strategy is to outvalue your enemy and then crush them thanks to the card advantage. Using cards like Coldarra Drake or Fallen Hero to make your Hero Power stronger, Fencing Coach or Maiden of the Lake to make it cheaper and topping the list with strong Inspire effects like Nexus Champion-Saraad and Kodorider to win the value game.

Option 3: – Drop Dead Hunter – Smashthings

GvG released a rather interesting card in Feign Death. It never really caught on, but is now the time for it? With Ball of Spiders we have the potential to draw a lot of cards. With Savannah Highmane and Sylvanas Windrunner we get a lot of board control. Throw in some Mad Scientists, Piloted Shredders, Sludge Belchers and Webspinners and of course the almighty Dr. Boom …. do we have a deck?

Option 4: – DragonLock – Modded

A Control Warlock deck using dragons both old and new to control the board until it can get to the late game and beat down your opponent. Although Warlocks don’t have any unique dragons, it’s hero power means that it can consistently trigger minions like blackwing-corruptor, and it’s the only class that can consistently get value out of twilight-drake. It also has access to the biggest sweepers in the game, shadowflame and twisting-nether. May build upon the pre-TGT Malygos Warlock or contain giants similar to handlock.

Voting

Below is a quick recap of all of the available choices. Please vote here.

  • Option 1: Discard Warlock – Stonekeep
  • Option 2: Hero Power Mage (previous runner-up) – Stonekeep
  • Option 3: Drop Dead Hunter – Smashthings
  • Option 4: DragonLock – Modded