Murlocs and Pirates have always existed in the game but they have never quite broken the meta up until recently with Pirates becoming pretty much the strongest tribe in Hearthstone. Last season Dwayna27 broke into the Legend ranks and finished top 1 Legend in February with his custom ‘Water Rogue’ list. What seems to be a simple Aggro Rogue package with Murlocs thrown in, has been doing some serious work in the meta by making use of cards no one has quite tried in high ranks.
Aggro Water Rogue is a very aggressive deck that is in line with Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior, utilizing a lot of pirates that the aforementioned decks run. The goal of the deck is to win the tempo battle early in the game and then proceeding to flood the board with very aggressive early drops and ending the game as early as turn 5 very consistently. One of the primary advantages of having Pirates that synergize with weapons is that you have access to Wicked Blade, the Rogue hero power that allows you to equip a 1/2 weapons for just 2 mana. So what is so unique about the decklist?
Unlike other aggressive decks that go all in you have access to cards like Swashburglar, The Curator and Shaku the Collector to refill your hand to make sure you maintain card advantage against your opponent at all times – which cannot be said for other aggressive decks. Against aggressive decks you have the advantage of turning on the attrition game and fighting for board control, while against slower decks you can try to speed things up and avoid unnecessary trades completely and try to end the game as fast as possible. It is definitely one of the more innovative decks out there with plenty of cards you would otherwise not see being played in Rogue of all classes.
Let’s break down the card choices before moving onto the matchups and mulligan guide:
Backstab: Backstab is one of the strongest class cards that Rogue has access to and it is a very powerful combo activator for your combo cards. The 0 mana cost makes it very easy for turning the tempo game in your favor by being able to mitigate your opponent’s early game while also being able to spend your mana the way you want to.
Shadowstep: It is one of the most interesting picks in the deck and it offers replay value for almost all of your minions that you have in the deck. You can choose to pull back your charge minions to your hand and then replay them for additional damage, attack with your stealth minions and then replay them for more value or simply double up on the value of your battlecry minions.
Cold Blood: It is a very powerful card for amping up damage on your minions for bursting down your opponent’s health pool or simply getting absurdly good trades with very weak minions. Ideally you want to use the card on your charge or stealth minions and try to apply pressure on your opponent but if you get a very good trade with a small minion you should take it. A lot of people question the fact if Cold Blood should be strictly used as a finisher; if there are any odds that your minion will survive on board for an additional turn you are fine playing Cold Blood on a minion with Combo to apply pressure and force your opponent into answering your board.
Patches the Pirate: The tiny 1/1 minion that has been ruling the meta for several months now since the launch of Mean Streets of Gadgetzan makes another appearance in this deck. The card is a perfect fit in the deck with so many powerful Pirates that you have access to for getting Patches out early in the game. Rogue has always been about cycling cards and getting to your power cards in time, and Patches helps with just that by drawing himself out whenever you play a pirate.
Small-Time Buccaneer: Despite the nerf to the card, it still is very powerful thanks to the Rogue hero power. Unlike the other decks that used to run Small-Time Buccaneer, you do not need to run weapons to activate the effect of the card, all it takes is to equip a Wicked Blade using your hero power and you are turn the 1/1 into a 3/1.
Southsea Deckhand: Another pirate that synergizes with your Rogue hero power. It is a great minion for board control or pushing face damage if you have a weapon equipped. It is also a very good target for Cold Blood, allowing you to push a ton of burst damage to your opponent’s face or simply getting good trades off for mana efficient resources.
Swashburglar: It is one of my favorite Rogue cards in the game. Despite the RNG element being there, allowing you to get pseudo card draw for a throwaway mana cost and a 1/1 body is pretty good and it also has the Pirate deck. Being able to draw cards outside your deck has always been considered a good effect because your opponent cannot necessarily play around cards that he knows you do not have access to. It is also a very good means of keeping resources in your hand to play in subsequent turns.
Bluegill Warrior: Bluegill Warrior is part of the ‘Water Package’ that consists of a total of 5 murlocs. You can choose to play it on curve if you draw it if you choose to but the Murlocs are best drawn through Finja, The Flying Star. Bluegill Warrior is one of many charge minions in the deck and if left alone it can put in a considerable amount of chip damage on your opponent’s health pool.
Eviscerate: A very flexible card that allows you to take out small minions without combo and it can dish out 4 damage if you combo it. It can be used as a burst damage tool as well as minion removal depending on how your game is proceeding. Since it is one of the few sources of burst damage your have you need to be careful about how you plan on using it game to game.
Argent Horserider: A prime contender for being buffed with Cold Blood since you have access to a Divine Shield on the minion, making it very hard to clear. It can go two-for-one in the board control department as well, making it a highly flexible and powerful card to include in the deck.
Edwin VanCleef: A very high tempo legendary that became very powerful after Silence effects in the game got nerfed last year during the arrival for Standard. Do not be too greedy for value when it comes to Edwin and having an early medium stat Edwin is better than hoarding up cards to go all in on him, causing you to lose tempo in the initial turns. He is definitely a must have legendary if you love playing Rogue.
Jungle Panther: We want to include Jungle Panther in the deck because of the beast synergy with The Curator and also the stealth effect, allowing you to apply a lot of pressure due to the high attack it offers for just 3 mana.
Murloc Warleader: While it is best drawn through Finja, The Flying Star – you can also play it as a 3 mana 3/3 without any downside. The Warleaders are part of the Finja Water package and add a lot of board presence to zerg down your opponent’s health pool or simply establish dominance on board.
Shaku, The Collector: While it was deemed to be one of the weakest class legendaries in the Mean Streets of Gadgetzan set, it seems like Shaku is finally seeing some play and pretty much every pro player who is giving Water Rogue a shot approves of Shaku’s inclusion. Shaku is a decent pick in the deck but it’s definitely not a must include card if you do not happen to have him in your collection. You can replace it with a second Argent Horserider or Undercity Huckster if you want to.
SI:7 Agent: It is one of the strongest 3 drops in the game according to a lot of pros and there is definitely reason to get behind that. It is one of the strongest tempo plays available to Rogue and being able to remove cards while developing the board or your hand size is what the class does best. You should always try to use the minion to clear out minions and with so many 0 and 1 mana cards available in the deck, pulling off the combo trigger is not difficult at all.
Naga Corsair: Naga Corsair is the only weapon buff card in the deck and it is a great tempo play for 4 mana. Since you have access to your hero power, you do not need to run exclusive weapons in the deck thanks to your hero power allowing you to get assured value out of the card.
Azure Drake: One of the strongest 5 drops in the game and being able to get value out of your spells, while also getting to cycle is what makes Azure Drake fit into a ton of decks in the meta. You also have the added advantage of it having the Dragon tag, allowing you to get more value out of The Curator.
Dark Iron Skulker: It is more of a meta call that you may or may not want to include in the deck. Since you do not have access to Fan of Knives in the deck, you have no other AoE card so running Dark Iron Skulker as a one-off makes sense since it comes with a body attached and can offer immense value against aggressive decks.
Finja, The Flying Star: The final card in the Water package, you ideally want to draw your Murlocs through Finja to thin out your deck and get to other cards. Even if you do not have any favorable trades you can take advantage of your spells to make sure Finja gets the killing blow to draw your pirates or you can simply buff him with Cold Blood to draw out two murlocs.
Leeroy Jenkins: The classic Rogue finisher in the game, with Leeroy’s usage dating back to as early as 2014 when Miracle Rogue was extremely powerful and he has gone in and out of Rogue decks over time. Leeroy is a very powerful charge minion that is mostly used as a finisher in the deck and you can combo him with double Cold Blood for a 7 mana 14 damage burst finish. In rare cases you might need to use him as a removal or a tempo play as well, which is perfectly fine.
The Curator: It is one of the highlight cards of the deck and its inclusion is what makes the deck very unique. You have one beast, 5 murlocs and 2 dragons in the deck and being able to refill your hand with high value cards makes The Curator a very good inclusion in the deck.
How to Play
Ideally you want to have a solid early game curve with cheap 1 drops available to you in abundance. Starting off with Small Time Buccaneer or Swashburglar is a very good play and you want to follow up with your removals and cheap minions to keep applying pressure. If you are facing aggressive decks, you can easily burn down your opponent’s resources and fight for board control with the ton of removals and efficient cards that you have access to. You have your murlocs and other mid range cards to back you up in the mid-game with The Curator serving as a powerful card draw tool for the lategame.
One of the best things about this aggro deck is that it practically never runs out of steam and you have plenty of card draw and card generation in the deck. Against Control decks you want to be as aggressive as possible and you want to finish them off as early as possible. With Leeroy Jenkins and a ton of other charge minions available to you, you always have damage in hand and Cold Blood is a very good card to burst down your opponent with using your charge minions.
When it comes to the Murloc package, you mostly want to draw your murlocs using Finja and make sure you order your plays in any given turn correctly to ensure Finja gets value. You can combo Finja with spells and buffs to ensure you get value out of the card. You can also drop your Finja and then follow up with a Murloc Warleader when attacking to buff up your Finja and get value out of his effect.
Impact of the Pirate nerfs:
A lot of people have been trying Argent Squire in place of Small-Time Buccaneer since the nerf patch which came out live at the end of February and you will find several variations of the same decklist that you can try out. Some people do not run The Curator and Jungle Panther and choose to go with choices like Silent Knight and Shadow Sensei for a more stealth and buff heavy deck. Find out what suits your play style and keep toying around with the deck until you find what works for you best. I personally like the idea of making Shadow Sensei and Silent Knight work and the fact that Silent Knight has Divine Shield, it makes it very hard to deal with the card once you buff it with things like Shadow Sensei or Cold Blood. Shadow Sensei also works great with Finja, allowing you to almost assure the Murloc draw from your deck.
- Southsea Deckhand
- SI:7 Agent
- Eviscerate (matchup specific)
Ideally these 4 cards are the prime picks when it comes to the mulligan phase but you can make room for more expensive cards if you have a solid hand. Make sure to drop Patches out of your hand if you draw him in you mulligan. Edwin VanCleef can also be kept in your hand if you are able to tempo out a good VanCleef early in the game.
- Jade Druid
- Dragon Priest
- Miracle Rogue
- Dragon Warrior
- Tempo Mage
- Mid Range Shaman
- Reno Mage
- Aggro Shaman
- Pirate Warrior
While Aggro Shaman and Pirate Warrior happen to be bad matchups, they are not unfavorable by a big margin and a lot of the matchups depend on how well each player draws. You do not want to try and outpace aggressive decks that you are unfavorable against. Instead, you want to control the board and make sure they do not get enough chip damage in on your face so that you are able to put together your burst damage and charge minions to close out the game fast enough.
The deck is definitely top tier and people have gone ahead and refined the decklist in various ways and its usage is prevalent in the competitive scene as well. Hope you have a fun time with the list and find success climbing up the ranks.