Weekly Legends: Control Rogue

And even then, when the skies have gone black and the world has turned to ash, ye too shall rise… Man it has been a long time since I have given Rogue some love, and it could not have come at a better time. The League of Explorers is officially out, and it going to […]

Introduction

And even then, when the skies have gone black and the world has turned to ash, ye too shall rise…

Man it has been a long time since I have given Rogue some love, and it could not have come at a better time. The League of Explorers is officially out, and it going to blow the roof of the class (which I will be covering in next months Brewmaster series). However, for now we are going to look at one of the coolest lists I have covered in some time. There have been many iterations of Rogue over the past two years, but no one has really been able to make a Control list work. The reason is two-fold. One, Rogue is a class built around quick burst, which makes most of its decks combo based. Two, Rogue takes a lot of damage from its hero power, which simply does not work in a aggressive meta. Here, ImmortalLion28 fixed both of those problems by giving a tempo style control list that stacks up extremely well to the most popular decks on ladder.

Rogue has long been known as a spell-based class (for good reason). Miracle did things with spells no class should ever be allowed to do, and Oil Rogue was basically the same deck with a new face. However, Rogue is a blast to play when it is minion based. This has only happened once in the past when Tempo-Rogue was at the height of its power and Cairne Bloodhoof was one of the strongest minions around. This list moves away from spells as well as weapons in order to spend almost all of its resources on strong minions as a way to grab the board. It also offers many ways to make the game go long, which is very powerful in this day and age.

Key Cards

Betrayal

I’ll admit, when I first read this list I thought “well, I’ll start by cutting Betrayal“. Now that I have played with the deck, I may have been too hasty on this card. Though it has seen very little play in the past, Betrayal has a very powerful effect. In fact, looking at it in a vacuum it is basically “destroy 2 minions for two mana”. That is a very good deal. That deal gets even better in the current meta. There are a lot of decks that like having multiple big minions on the board (see Secret Paladin) making this a very strong silver bullet. It isn’t going to win games on its own, but it can really swing a game when you have ample board presence.

Before moving on, I do want to note that this card can probably be other options if you find it isn’t working for the decks you are playing against. Always be adapting in Hearthstone. You never want to play a list card for card just because someone took it to legend. This card is a flex spot. If you are noting a lot of big boards being played against you, they Betrayal is a great choice. If that isn’t happening, look for other removal options.

Earthen Ring Farseer/Refreshment Vendor

In the words of my favorite streamer, heeeaaalllliiinnnggg. As stated in the introduction, Rogue is a class that suffers from taking a lot of damage through weapon hits. That damage taken is one of the largest reasons that Tempo and Control both haven’t worked in the past. While it might seem fine to take four damage from a Leper Gnome, it is a lot worse than it once was. You need minions that can offset the damage you take by giving you some all-important extra life. Earthen Ring Farseer and Refreshment Vendor both do this while also slotting directly into your curve. Each of those cards are one-ofs, but they both play pivotal roles in what this deck is trying to do.

Each of these are minions first and healing second. What that means is, you never want to hold off playing them on curve because you can’t make use of their battlecries. This deck is a control deck on paper but a tempo deck in practice. You need to try to get something down each turn when you can, and then use those bodies to trade and allow you to get further into the game. Missing one turn or not playing a 3/5 because you’re already at full health can cost you the game due to the lack of removal in this list.

Never forget that farseer can heal your minons. As you can see in the videos I often used its ability to heal up another minion, which then allowed me to get better trades down the line.

Assassinate

Sometimes you just need to kill things. While I love me a good Big Game Hunter from time to time, there are so many cards it cannot touch (Ysera comes to mind). Not only that, but there are a ton of large minions (such as a Shielded Minibot with a Blessing of Kings) that you will have no good answer to. That is where Assassinate comes into play. Most Rogue decks typically play Sap as the way to offset bigger minions. Without that safety net, you need some way to get rid of strong minions that can eat your whole board. This card does a fantastic job of that, letting you take out any tricky minion that might come your way. It is also unexpected, which means people won’t play around it. The only rule is to remember that you only have one. Use it to keep board if you have to, but try and save it for your opponent’s “problem minion”. That can range from Ysera to Dr. Boom to Savannah Highmane.

Dark Iron Skulker

This list is chock full of tech cards for different matchups. The original list ran Harrison Jones in this spot. While the archaeologist is a fine card, it just doesn’t do enough for me. Yes, drawing cards is good, but I found I wanted more AOE over being able to destroy a weapon here and there. That is where Dark Iron Skulker and its rather strong ability stepped in. Backstab is a very powerful card, but it is typically seen as an early game tool. That means that Skulker usually wouldn’t get too much value from its ability once turn five or so rolled around. However, this meta is filled with swarm decks on the ladder.

Aggro Druid, Secret Paladin and many type of Hunter love spamming the board in the middle turns of the game with cards like Muster for Battle and Unleash the Hounds. This allows Skulker to get a ton of value. I cannot talk enough about how important Tempo is for this style of deck, and the sneaky dwarf oozes tempo. Removing your opponent’s board is very strong, but even killing off just one minion while also placing a 4/3 down is good. You don’t need to save this for any one card, just look for the best opportunities to use it. There are a lot of five drops in this deck, and they all have their space. Also remember that Skulker is not a five drop you necessarily need to play on curve. You can hold it for certain situations, looking ways to get the most value. Even if you don’t kill something with the battlecry, a lot of times you will allow your smaller minions to trade into larger ones.

Anub’arak

We round out the cards with easily my favorite minion in the list, Anub’arak. The lord of the Nerubian Kingdom may not be the fastest or most impactful card in the game, but man is he one of the best finishers around. To understand the way he plays we need to discuss his 8/4 body. While it may seem strange, he has the perfect stat distribution. Outside of a silence, the large beetle is never going to go away. In fact, when you get to the part of the game where you can play him your strategy is mostly going to turn into playing him turn after turn after turn, filling up the board with 4/4’s in the process. His 8 damage is great because it allows him to crash into any minion for a trade. It also means he cannot just be ignored, since he creates lethal very, very quickly. On the other hand, you do want him to die so you can play him again. The four health makes this happen quite well.

This card is going to act like Tirion Fordring in a lot of games. This is because you are simply doing everything you can to survive long enough to play Anub’arak. A silence is the only way most decks can deal with the giant beetle, and if they spend their resources on your other minons, they will quickly succumb to an army of Nerubians. Anub’arak will also single-handedly win you control games. Just always be aware of Sylvanas Windrunner in those matchups, since you have no answer if your opponent steals him.

Note: Kel’thuzad is the best replacement for Anub’arak if you do not have access to him.

Matchups

Secret Paladin

Still at the top of the ladder, and still at the top of my matchups. Secret Paladin is one of the biggest reasons this Control Rogue even exists. Not only do you have the tools to take down Uther, but you have a deck tailor-made to strike back against Secret. There are no better early game control cards than Zombie Chow, Backstab, SI:7 Agent and Fan of Knives. All of those completely decimate Secrets early plays, which then forces them to play their midrange minions without a stable board. You can then slowly take out their larger threats with your own minions and removal. Assassinate and Big Game Hunter should be used on Mysterious Challenger or Dr. Boom depending on what comes first. Tirion Fordring is the most problematic minion your opponent has, and you want to kill it on sight. Always remember that Ashbringer is very underwhelming when their opponent has full control of the board.

The most important rule here is to always do what you can to keep control of the board. That means play around secrets. A lot of Paladins depend on secrets to back up their early minions. You need to play around those secrets in a way where they don’t give your opponent favorable trades. For instance, always try to attack with your weapon into a Noble Sacrifice, since that will keep damage off of your minions or never kill a minion while Avenge is up unless you have a way to deal with the buff. It is easy to look at Secret Paladin games and see the big minions killing people, but misplaying around secrets is often how the games are lost.

Aggro Druid

When it comes to Druid I often write about Midrange much more than aggro. However, it has been a good week since I have seen Midrange Druid, while the aggro ones keep on piling up. And I say, bring them on. Just like with Secret Paladin, this is a deck your resources are built to crush. While the AOE potential is not there, you have too many ways to take control of the board. Aggro Druid is a fast deck that relies on early pressure to set up their combo pieces. If you keep their minions off the board they will not be able to do this. Know that, and constantly be aware of how much damage they can do through Savage Roar or Savage Roar/Force of Nature. This is one of the matches where you are just a control deck. Stay alive as long as you can and run them out of threats. Once Aggro Druid is topdecking the game is almost always over. Also never be afraid to throw down your healing to stay above fourteen life.

The two cards you need to be aware of are Darnassus Aspirant and Fel Reaver. Always kill Darnassus on sight, since letting it go unanswered for even one turn is like letting Mechwarper live…Except this Mechwarper makes all cards cost one less. You only lose this game by falling behind on board, and allowing your opponent to curve into their higher minions a turn before you can is a good way to fall behind on board. The other problem card is Fel Reaver. You have two answers to it in Big Game Hunter and Assassinate. Use either of them when the large mech comes to town. If you don’t have access to your hard removal, you want to fight it by putting a board together on turn five that can easily apply pressure or trade into the 8/8.

Control Warrior

Control Warrior is a very tricky matchup. They control the board much better than you do (and much better than any deck in the game). That means it is going to be hard to win trying to beat them at what they do. Rather, you want to win through attrition rather than control. Sylvanas Windrunner and Anub’arak are your all-stars in this match, and playing them correctly is going to be how you win. Sylvanas should be saved for the last turns before fatigue, since that will ensure she gets the most value. She is such a vital tool you only want to run her out when your opponent is out of ways to easily kill her.

When it comes to Anub’arak you simply want to get the beetle down as soon as their Sylvanas is gone. He is going to grind them out eventually, since almost no Control Warriors run silence. And once they  You just want to make sure they have absolutely have no way to properly interact with him.

Another important note is, be aware of their combo. Always try to save at least one heal for the post Alexstrasza turns. Once they use her and Grommash Hellscream they have very little ways to kill you. That is very important since they almost will never be able to outpace your minions on board. When going against Control Warrior you never want to worry about their armor. They are going to gain a lot of it throughout the game, it won’t matter if you have the last threat or they go into fatigue well ahead of you.

Assassinate should be saved for Ysera in this matchup since she is practically impossible to deal with outside of hard removal.

Hybrid Hunter

It seems every Hunter list these days is leaning towards Hybrid. They all want to play big beefy minions to tangle with Secret Paladin, but they also want to have the aggression to just randomly win some matches. As much as I hate and constantly rant about it, that really isn’t the worst idea in the world. And, if the videos are any indication, it does not pan out too well for you. Hunter is by far the worst matchup for this deck due to the fact that they have so many problematic cards you need to deal with. Without Sap you are at the mercy of their high-end cards, and even if you do stabilize, their hero power will just wear you down very, very quickly. The way you battle this is by grabbing board early and never letting it go. Missing a turn here or there is not an option, you need to either clear or put something down every turn.

Playing Hunter is always going to be a race for your healing. Between their sticky minions and seemingly endless stream of Ironbeak Owls, taunts are not going to cut it like they once did. Sludge Belcher is a good card to have, but it often just gets blown away. This is a matchup where Earthen Ring Farseer and Refreshment Vendor really shine. Having those early curves that also mitigate your health can be really important. One thing to remember is that, you need to be aggressive with your damage. Even if you do get taunts and heals up, Hunter can wear you down with Steady Shot. Always try to kill them before this happens.

Zoo

It finally happened, ladies and gentelmen, Warlock is back. I have been fighting through hoards of Zoo over the past few days, and I only see those numbers rising as we move forward into the League of Explorers. While I originally thought Zoo would be very challenging for this deck due to how sticky all of their minions are, it has actually been a breeze. Your removal, healing and slew of minions just spell disaster for a deck bent on board domination. This game is very simple. Once you clear their board you will the game. A bold statement, but a very difficult task. Zoo is not a deck that is built to play from behind, and if you get their minions out of the way the game is over. Though they control the board, you want to play against them as if they were any other hyper aggro deck. Clear everything they have. All of their buffs and power comes from controlling the board, and if you can shut that down early they won’t have a chance. Save Fan of Knives for Imp-losion[/card] and Assassinate for Doomguard.

Mulligan Guide

When looking for the right mulligans you need to be aware of your curve. Though this is a control deck in nature, it has a ton of tempo attributes. That means you have to look for your early plays and keep them when you come. Even something as simple as a lone Piloted Shredder can actually be a good keep due to how high your deck’s natural curve is. This is not a meta where you can afford to get bogged down with a bunch of five mana cards in your hand. You are always looking for Zombie Chow, Backstab and SI:7 Agent. Those are your must keeps. When going against Hunter or Paladin you need to keep Fan of Knives, and Eviscerate can also be kept against all of those early-board style decks (Druid as well).

As a Rogue, the coin is going to play a big role here. You should always keep your three drops if you have it, and you also want to keep both Piloted Shredder and Refreshment Vendor when going second. Those cards can be a bit slow on the curve, but they are really good when they come down a turn earlier. However, as stated above, you should look to keep your four drops if you have a good curve coming before them. Everything five and over is too expensive, and you should only keep Burgle when playing against a slow control deck like Warrior or Priest.

Conclusion

Man do I love me some minion-based Rogue. I am just counting down the days until I can play Unearthed Raptor (I am taking deathrattle Rogue to legend in December). I hope you all enjoy this deck and I hope you’re having a great November. The new cards will be coming out over the next week, which means even more awesome new lists. Until next time, may you always have Backstab in your opening hand.