Karazhan has been a wild ride. Now that the whole set is out (at least at the time you’re reading this) it is time to really dig into the different cards and figure out what has the stuff to take down the meta. This week’s legend is list is a really (really, really) cool Rogue build that pilots in a very unique way. Instead of going with Miracle, Reno, Aggro or N’zoth (all of which have been extremely popular since Whispers) this deck seeks to play the deathrattle game through strong board presence and some very powerful interactions. In that way there are many things to explore in this list, which keeps it both fun and fresh.
This week’s list come from carrottopguy. It is Tempo Deathrattle Rogue, a build that thrives off of consistency and acts like a blend between N’zoth and the Tempo decks of old. In that way, it makes for a very fun time. Not only do you have all of the classic cool Tempo Rogue plays available to you that make playing the class fun, but there are a lot of smooth interactions and interesting combos you can make to help you win this game. You also get a chance to play with a lot of cards that typically never leave the collection. In this way, this deck goes the full Tempo Rogue backed up with some strong on-curve deathrattle minions. The whole list, from one to six, just oozes value and allows you enough pressure and presence to stand up against pretty much any deck in the metagame.
A card that I think will continue to see more and more play over the coming weeks, Runic Egg is very strong in this deck. Not only does it give you another one drop that helps your curve and combo, it also provides you with a strong deathrattle that enables you to tear through your deck. Drawing cards is key for a list like this and you want to maximize your chances of starting out each game with something on the board (be it a one drop or a two drop with the coin). Though a 0/2 isn’t able to trade and often just dies to opposing minions, the deathrattle means you are always going to get some value out of it. If you do manage to trade, even better.
The most important note about Runic Egg is that it presents your opponent with two situations that both benefit you. That is to say, they either kill your one drop, netting you two health and a card, or they ignore it and risk you getting value. Not only can you buff the one drop in numerous ways with things like Abusive Sergeant or Defender of Argus, but getting the deathrattle onto Unearthed Raptor is one of the best ways to solidify your hand moving into the middle game. Your opponent will often want to prevent situations like this, meaning they will often kill it. This works out since it allows you to cycle through your deck for free. However, you should note you typically want to get some value from the one drop before it dies.
Though this card may seem strange in a tempo-focused build, Cold Blood is extremely important for two reasons. One, it is a great way to glean tempo out of your early game cards. Similar to Zoo, this is a list that wants to trade up and steadily build into bigger and more threatening minions. While Abusive Sergeant helps with that, Cold Blood really gives you the ability to gain tempo in a big way. Having your 1/1 trade into a four or five drop can be massive at times and help you cement a board or jump back into the game. If that Cold Blood hits a value card like Undercity Huckster or Runic Egg, even better. This also does a great job of taking the heat off of your bigger minions. Turning your Huckster into a 6/2 suddenly makes it a lot more important to kill than your Unearthed Raptor that is getting in for three each turn.
The other, more obvious part of Cold Blood, is how much pressure it can put on. Four damage out of nowhere is nothing to sneeze at, especially against slower decks. This card is one of your surprise factors that allows you to stack up lethal out of nowhere. A big part of this deck is understanding your damage and knowing when to play tempo and when to go for face. If you ever get ahead and have a chance to really hit your opponent hard you need to make that happen. Cold Blood is the main way you do this because it, unlike cards like Abusive Sergeant or Eviscerate, it stays around and forces your opponent to have an answer. As a result, you typically don’t want to just put this on your only minion unless you are setting up two turn lethal. It works much better on a field of threats where your opponent has to use their mana killing multiple things.
Twilight Summoner is the sole reason this whole deck can even exist. The 1/1 for four may seem very slow for a tempo deck (and admittedly it kind of is), but it leads to some absolutely insane swings that can bring you back from the brink or just end the game on the spot. Getting this off of Barnes is huge, as is copying it with Unearthed Raptor (one of your more common win conditions). It also works extremely well with Shadowcaster and Defender of Argus. Though this card doesn’t add much to the board right away, the ample combos are so strong it is more than worth the inclusion.
The most important part of playing Twilight Summoner is to avoid running it into situations where it can be easily removed from the board. You are depending on this card to get you a lot of value throughout the game and putting it down when your opponent has the board simply isn’t going to be worth it. However, playing this onto an empty board is often fine since most people aren’t going to pop the 1/1 and give you a 5/5 threat just to keep you off of the deathrattle. In fact, that hesitation to kill the 1/1 is perhaps the reason it is so strong here. Your whole goal is to take over the board during the early turns of the game simply so you can get the summoner down onto a board full of minions. Just know when you want to pop it to get the board and when you want to keep it in its first form to discourage AOE.
Though I run one instead of two like the original list (a decision explained below) Shadowcaster is a fantastic card to have access to. It’s so good it may be worth running two, though I am not sure how I would shift the current list around. The 4/4 is extremely powerful in a tempo-style list like this one because there are just so many targets that can get you so much value. SI:7 Agent, Runic Egg, Swashburglar, Cairne Bloodhoof, Undercity Huckster and Unearthed Raptor are all fantastic as 1/1’s for one. This also curves very well with Twilight Summoner (which you always want more of). All of these small combos really make this card a threat and give you more ways to punish your opponent for keeping your minions on board. I also want to specifically mention the strength of an extra 1/1 Defender of Argus because the combo has saved me more than a few times. The four drop is one of the best ways to beat decks that race such as Hunter and Shaman and you should always try to get a second one when locked in a race or trying to prevent lethal.
Instead of the second Shadowcaster, I slotted in Cairne Bloodhoof. Though some may argue that caster is better because of the interactions with everything else in the list, I have not once regretted adding in Cairne. The 4/5 has won me a ton of games as both a curve-topper and extremely solid tempo play. It also is very strong against control and can just eat decks like Tempo Mage and Midrange Hunter for breakfast. Cairne also follows your deathrattle theme and allows you to make some huge plays with things like Unearthed Raptor, Shadowcaster and Barnes. Hitting a Defender of Argus or Cold Blood with this card is also very strong to push damage or just clog up the board. This will often force our multiple removal spells, keeping you in priority moving into the later stages of the game.
Some of you may be wondering why I chose to play the tauren over Sylvanas Windrunner. The reason is because this deck is tempo, rather than control, based. You have no end game and no big finisher. Instead, your goal is to take over by the middle game and end it shortly after. Though Sylvanas is undeniably strong and one of the best ways to lock down a board, she doesn’t contest it quite as much as Cairne does. For instance, getting her off of Barnes can be a huge swing, but it can also be removed with no consequences. On the flip side, hitting Cairne can suddenly make your opponent’s trades and removal very awkward. The same logic applies to Unearthed Raptor. This deck cares about the board, and you want to play as many minions that can advance your board as possible. Though a 4/5 is not as good as a 5/5, this acts like a third Twilight Summoner, which is quite nice.
The five decks I see the most when playing ladder.
Back to number one, Aggro Shaman just loves being at the top. As Hearthstone is currently in a time of flux, aggro decks are really strong and no one hits face better right now than Thrall. This is a very interesting match because it is often going to come down to how well you can stay ahead of your opponent. Shaman thrives on being ahead on board to set up their Flamewreathed Faceless or Doomhammer turns in a way where they can just push face and ignore the board for the rest of the game. This is especially true when facing other decks that do a good job of controlling damage output. Your whole goal is to apply your own pressure and build up enough threats to keep them from ignoring you. Even something as simple as using a Cold Blood on turn three to punish them for playing a Faceless on curve can swing the game in your favor.
You have to beat Shaman on turns one or two. You cannot let them have the board early, because you are unlikely to get it back once you lose it. Use your early minions to trade up and utilize your buffs as much as possible. Something as simple as trading your Swashburglar into a Tunnel Trogg with an Abusive Sergeant can instantly shift the tide and put you in the driver’s seat. Play out the start of the game as pure tempo and only switch to pushing for face once you’re ahead. Your most important card in this matchup is Defender of Argus. The four drop not only allows you to trade well, but it also gives you a way to protect yourself against things like Doomhammer. Always smack it down if you have two targets at your disposal.
As popular as Shaman is, Midrange Hunter is right there with it. Kindly Grandmother and Cloaked Huntress have skyrocketed the class to the top of the meta, and you need to be ready for all different versions. In my experience, this is largely going to be a 50/50 game. While Hunter does have aggression and very strong beast synergy, you have a plethora of deathrattle minions and very efficient removal. In that way, you and your opponent are both fighting hard for board and doing your best to make sure your opponent cannot comfortably set up their haymakers like Savannah Highmane, Call of the Wild or Cairne Bloodhoof. Damage is very important for this reason. Do not be afraid to flood and push before key turns like six or eight. Even if your opponent manages to clear, you will retain priority.
The most important thing to remember here is you want to end the game (or virtually end the game by having a large board) by turn eight. If you are behind or tied, then Call of the Wild is going to beat you ten times out of ten. This match is going to be one of your most aggressive. Just watch out for Unleash the Hounds. Though it is not as popular as it once was, many lists these days are running it. Always be careful with your life total and try your best to utilize Defender of Argus. Today’s Hunters lists are locked into a certain curve, and if you put up a strong wall before something like Call of the Wild you can directly negate the tempo-advantage it usually gives. Huffer is never going to want to trade into a 2/2 Twilight Summoner with taunt.
Another deck that is just getting more and more popular (and will continue to get more and more popular), Tempo Mage has some of the most explosive starts and powerful burst in the game. They can just take over the board with a flurry of different spells and remove threat after threat while running out their own high-powered minions. That matches up poorly if you are behind, but if you can stay ahead you can really pour on the hurt. Mage has never been good at dealing with deathrattle, especially against minions that put a solid body on the board when they die. As a result, you will almost always be able to take this one down once you make it to your Twilight Summoner and Cairne Bloodhoof turns. The tricky part is making it through the constant flurry of spells and early game minions that Mage has. Always clear everything they play, even if it means giving your own board to do it. Even one minion can allow Mage to just add a ton of damage out of nowhere. You need to be able to limit their minions to mitigate their push to lethal. Similar to Shaman, once Mage can just push for face they will. Do what you can to prevent that from happening.
Still holding strong after the initial release of Onyx Bishop, Resurrect Priest is becoming more and more popular with each passing day. That is very bad news for this deck because Priest is easily the worst matchup. Though there are some games where you can really start moving, only having access to one Sap means you are going to have a very bad time trying to stop the Resurrect train from rolling down the tracks (and over your face). You want to spend the entire matchup calculating damage in your hand and trying to plan out future turns to see how to get your opponent to zero. You only want to play the tempo game during the first three or so turns when you can remove an Injured Blademaster just to protect your early board. After that, hit them and never look back.
Your whole goal in this matchup is to be the aggressor. You absolutely need to amass a strong board and kill your opponent before they ever a get a chance to get fully settled. Priest has become much stronger than it once was, and if they ever have priority or are at a comfortable life total come turns five, six or seven, then the game is largely over. Though you do have a large amount of minions that are resistant to removal, Priest doesn’t only rely on AOE to win games anymore. They have a good amount of bodies that challenge the board and can just bring back something like an Injured Blademaster over and over again. That is not something you can keep up with over a long game. Utilize all of your damage and do not be afraid to ignore midrange cards to get in extra hits.
Though it may prove to be a flash in the pan, Beast Druid has proven to be quite popular over the past week. The curve-based deck is quite good against a lot of decks and has one of the best curves around. Even so, this is a matchup that you (barring absurd ramp openers) are vastly favored in. Druid depends on their removal being able to kill things once, which makes deathrattle particularly strong against their class. Anytime you can stick a Twilight Summoner or Cairne Bloodhoof onto the board you should not hesitate to do so. This will take Druid off of their removal and make them depend on their board. That is a game you can win.
Like when playing Hunter, you want to work hard to keep ahead of your opponent. Beast Druid is the core definition of a curve deck, and once you get ahead of them they are going to have an extremely hard time coming back. Especially because of how well you can invalidate your removal. In addition, you can also use that predictability to make sure you properly anticipate thier plays. For instance, the most important part of the game is the turn after they play Stranglethorn Tiger. This is because they usually want to just slam down Menagerie Warden and build up an army of 5/5’s. As such, throw out whatever you can after the beast so you can pour on damage if they do decide to take that line of play.
Note: Watch out for Savage Roar as best as you can. Most Beast Druids pack this card and you never want to leave yourself open to a huge burst
As a tempo deck, you need to work hard to look for your one or two drops. You want to start every single game out with a minion on the board. Swashburglar, Backstab, Argent Squire, Abusive Sergeant, Undercity Huckster and Runic Egg are all must keeps. Though Cold Blood costs one, you never want it unless you can make an extremely aggressive push. Sap should only be kept against Druid alongside a good curve, and you only want Eviscerate when playing Hunter. SI:7 Agent and Unearthed Raptor should always be kept with the coin or with a strong curve.
The hardest part of mulliganing is deciding whether or not to keep your four drops. Though you typically want to stick to a curve, there are some times where you can keep slower hands. Barnes can be kept if you have a strong curve coming before it, or if you have one early minion and the coin. Twilight Summoner should always be kept if you have a curve coming before it, and you want to keep Defender of Argus with a good opening against aggressive decks. Azure Drake, Shadowcaster and Cairne Bloodhoof are all too slow to keep.
What an awesome list. Karazhan has taken a lot of really interesting decks to legend, and you can bet I am going to take the time to explore them all. There is just so much more to do and so many things left to test. I am not sure where this game is going to go in the next few weeks, but I will be following along closely. As fun as this deck is, there are so many other strong brews out there. Until next time, may the tempo be with you, always.