Weekly Legends: Pirate Rogue!

Last week it was Shaman, this time around it’s Rogue. And not just any Rogue, boys and girls. Oh no, this time around I wanted to cover something special. This week’s list is a Top 50 Legend Pirate Rogue deck from coreyrj. As I have said so many times before, one of the biggest reasons […]

Introduction

Last week it was Shaman, this time around it’s Rogue. And not just any Rogue, boys and girls. Oh no, this time around I wanted to cover something special. This week’s list is a Top 50 Legend Pirate Rogue deck from coreyrj. As I have said so many times before, one of the biggest reasons I do this series is to explore the fun yet competitive decks on the ladder. A lot of people tend to fall into a trap when looking at how to climb in Hearthstone. There are many names for this phenomenon, but I refer to it as the “popular belief fallacy”. What does that mean? It means “everyone believes it, so it must be true”. This comes in many forms throughout the game, ranging from “x card can’t be used” or “x card is unplayable” to “x class can’t win” or “this play isn’t right”. These notions often aren’t true. You don’t always want to go with the general consensus in Hearthstone, as surprise is most definitely your friend. As such, this week I wanted to give an example of ways to challenge convention. How? By showing that, despite general belief, Rogue is not unplayable.

This week’s list takes the conventional tropes of Oil Rogue and makes it into a much more early aggression, minion-based list. Some games will feel like aggro, but always remember that you want to play the tempo game when you can. This deck only runs one Sap, which means you are going to mostly rely on damage to control the board. If you can remove a large threat in order to save your minions you should always do so. Minions are largely the focus of this deck, which then finishes the end of the game with a giant burst. As such, a large part of this deck is to always understand when you can burst your opponent out of nowhere. That burst potential is still in this build, and an essential part of the deck. Just as when you play Midrange Hunter, where you never want to forger you are a Hunter, here you never want to forget you are a Rogue. You have a massive amount of damage potential, and you should always play to that when you can.

A lot of what makes this deck so fun is that it has the familiarity of Oil Rogue, but plays in a much more board focused deck. That’s just really cool.

Key Cards

Preparation

Starting off, we have one of the largest Rogue staples to ever grace Hearthstone:

Preparation. Prep is a very strong card, and is essential to combo, tempo and aggro decks alike. As will be explained, this is a deck that is going to pilot very differently based on what matchup you are up against. When you have a deck that operates in such a way, one that falls in the middle of different popular archetypes, you want cards that can adapt with you. Preparation is perhaps the best example of this, as it can activate so many different parts of your deck. This comes in many forms, whether it is getting you lethal out of nowhere from a free Eviscerate, allowing you to refill your hand with a clutch Sprint, or merely setting up some early tempo. When playing Preparation always be thinking of the different uses it has, and know the best way to play it during any particular scenario.

The most important thing to understand about Preparation is how and when to use it. Yes, a lot of the time you are going to just burn it with Sprint to get those sweet, sweet cards. This is often the correct play, and sometimes you may even want to hold Preparation for this exact purpose. However, you always want to play this card to the game state. While it is very good with the “dream” combo, it also represents lethal in a lot of games. Using this to get in two [card]Tinker’s Sharpsword Oils or an extra Eviscerate can be the difference between winning and losing. That goes double for the games where you are trying to race or kill your opponent before they can stabilize with too much life. In addition, you also don’t want to fall into the “best turn” trap. This means, while yes, you can Sprint of turn four, is that more important than maybe Eviscerating to clear the board with your SI:7 Agent on turn three? A lot of people tend to hold cards to get their “full value” (such as not wanting to Innervate just to get one mana) but you need to get that out of your head to use this card for whatever benefit you need.

Buccaneer

This deck wants tempo, this deck wants pirates, and this deck wants to be aggressive. Buccaneer is all three. Unlike Goblin Autobarber, which forces you to sacrifice tempo in order to get a buff, Buccaneer gives you a solid one drop that also allows you to weapon up on turn two and still get the buff. That is key because the buff can also be reused should Buccaneer live. If this guy does manage to survive, you can then start hitting your opponent in the face while using your 2/1 weapon to clear away early drops. This is as about as close to a “must remove” minion as this deck has, since it can just crush through the first turns if your opponent tries to ignore it. Also remember that this effect stacks as well. Having two Buccaneers on the field basically acts as a Deadly Poison, giving you a 3/2 buff that can be reused should they live (which they most likely won’t).

One more thing to note is Buccaneer has late game potential if you don’t draw it early on. Pumping your Assassin’s Blade to four power can be huge, as can getting one extra buff for your Blade Flurry. Of course, these benefits are not worth holding this card back, it is a great way to open a game, but you want to start looking for this when you move into the later turns of the game. It even triggers Ship’s Cannon, which is worth something as well. A lot of this deck is looking for the best ways to get the most value out of your cards and minions. Deadly Poison is very strong on its own, but a minion that enables you to buff your weapon one extra attack can be essential for clearing or pushing through the final points of damage.

Ship’s Cannon

On the surface, this deck may look like a pretty standard (or close to pretty standard) Oil Rogue list. However, it does not pilot like a standard Oil Rogue list. That is a very important thing to note, since it will affect the way you play and react to different situations. It is also the reason that I bring up Ship’s Cannon. Unlike Oil, which is primarily looking for combo plays, you are often going to favor board control in the early game and then switch over to a much more aggressive style. Oil relies on a lot of small cantrips to push to their later turns. This deck contains very-little cantrips, and rather heavily relies on pirate synergy and early minions. You may not have the most pirates at your disposal, but it has more than enough to get Ship’s Cannon to activate at least a few times. Two damage goes far beyond one (looking at you Knife Juggler), and this seemingly plain two drop can lead to lethal (or very strong removal) really, really quickly.

When playing the tempo game, you always need to remember that tempo comes in many forms. Yes, most of the time it is simply adding to your board while taking away your opponent’s, but that is not always the case. For instance, Ship’s Cannon can get you tempo in two ways, and you should always utilize both based on different situations. The first of these is the removal aspect. Yes, there is always going to be RNG when the word “random” is printed onto a card, but the chance of hitting something for two can advance your board nicely. This goes double when paired with other removal like Backstab or Eviscerate. An early cannon trigger can usually give you a huge push to controlling the early board. The second form of tempo is the fact that this card has to be removed. Ship’s Cannon is a very scary two drop, and will eat removal most of the time it is played. While this is not ideal, it can be used to your advantage. For example, if you are playing against Tempo Mage, you can play this turn two and force them to Frostbolt on their second turn instead of adding to the board. This then sets up your turn three. Those are the kind of plays that “must kill” cards like this allow, and something you can leverage early on. Your opponent’s removal can be used to your advantage if you plan ahead, and that is what allows the cannon to put you ahead of other tempo plays.

Dread Corsair

Out of every minion in this deck, I would say that Dread Corsair is one of the most important. A 3/3 for free (or for one) is extremely powerful. Add taunt to that equation, and that power level goes through the roof. Getting a 3/3 with taunt for cheap is good in both aggressive and tempo playstyles, and this deck operates with both. The corsair is a pirate (relevant), protects you from aggro (relevant) and even acts as a wall to protect your other minions (relevant!). There are a high amount of weapon buffs in this deck, and if you can manage to get Dread Corsair out early, or save it to get an extra hit off of Ship’s Cannon, you are just adding even more threats onto the board. While it may be hard, you need to get this card’s mana cost out of your head. Cheap is one of the most important aspects of building a solid Rogue deck. That usually comes in the form of spells, but this deck runs on minions. You need to get an early presence for this deck to work, and this is one of the best cards for that option. It may not be flashy or super powerful, but it fills a very important role here. In fact, because it is often so cheap, it can be also used to trigger combo. Just note when planning for corsair that you do not want to force this card out early (or buff your weapon just to get it onto the board), but let it come naturally as a part of your game plan.

Assassin’s Blade

While there are many intricacies about the different cards in this list, I primarily bring up Assassin’s Blade for one key reason: you are not scared of Harrison Jones. Or rather, you cannot afford to be scared of Harrison Jones. You are half a tempo deck, and half an aggro deck. As such, you really cannot afford to spend a lot of your time worrying too much about “do they have it?”. Assassin’s Blade is not a card that you want to mess around with, it is a card that hits face and it hits face hard. Of course there are times that you can use this to clear away taunts or big minions, but you mostly want to combine this with some kind of buff and push for lethal. Even if you don’t have any buffs, Assassin’s Blade represents 12 damage, which is a significant amount in a Rogue build.

The other thing to remember when choosing when and how to play the blade is, always be aware of how your opponent is going to react when you equip. This card is a lot like Doomhammer, but actually a lot scarier due to the class that you are playing. As such, your opponent will become much more aggressive once the blade is out. This comes in two forms, but usually means they will try to kill you before you can kill them. Adversely, they may also do anything they can to stay alive, from unnecessarily dropping taunts to healing anyway they can. With this in mind, unless you have no other choice, you only want to play the blade if you can react to such plays. For example, if you are playing against a cautious Paladin but can’t survive or respond to a huge aggro push, you way want to save this, because as soon as you equip, they are most likely going to dump their hand out of fear.

Matchups

Secret Paladin

While you have many strong winrates against a lot of the meta, Secret Paladin is going to be a bit trickier without Fan of Knives at your side. For this reason, and since you absolutely need to keep their minions in check, this is perhaps the only matchup where Blade Flurry is an auto keep. Paladin is a deck that is tricky to play since they not have the best 1-2 punch in the game in Shielded Minibot and Muster for Battle. However, they also have a lot of crappy draws (like secret after secret) and can be piloted around if you know what their deck is doing. While you want to carefully test for different secrets, the only one you truly care about is Avenge. You want to plan for this card by having removal available any time you are going to remove their minion. However, this is a matchup where you mostly want to be an aggro deck. Going face gives you a lot of options, and will force them to play the game they don’t want to play. Since secrets only trigger on their turn, they get no value from trading into your minions as opposed to you trading into theirs.

Paladin is a deck that largely relies on having swarms of minions on the board at one time. In fact, Mysterious Challenger is only really strong when multiple minions are out. A 10/9 or the like is certainly scary, but you can also leverage that with a Sap or by simply putting them to a really low life total before the challenger comes to town. Playing reactive is the way you are going to lose this game. Just like with Patron (which will be covered below) you want to start hitting them early and often. If you don’t they will be able to sit back and just play out cards. However, as you are a Rogue, the lower their life total gets, the more nervous they will become. Make them sweat early on, make them plan the trades, and you will eventually be able to push through.

Grim Patron

It seems like every time I make some claim that Control Warrior is back on the ladder, every Patron player in the world rises up to instantly prove me wrong. I have been shut out of legend so far this season, and this deck is the sole reason why. This deck is very, very hard to beat. Just like Paladin, you need to start putting on the hits early and often. However, unlike Paladin, they have ways to stay alive. Armorsmith can be a problem when combined with any Whirlwind effect, and Shield Block is very tough to fight through. Even their hero power can be used in a pinch. However, they need to have access to those cards, and Patron does very poorly when faced with aggression. This is the only match where you are a pure aggro deck. Kill them before they kill you, because they will kill you if you give them too many chances. This match is one of the trickiest out there, but you need to trust your guns. Look for a solid curve, and know that at the end of the day you are a Rogue capable of doing huge amounts of burst damage a turn or two before they can.

Most Patrons run Harrison Jones. As I stated earlier, you can’t hold back weapons and worry about him (or you will just end up losing by giving them too much time anyway). But you also don’t need to play directly into him. A large dagger plus Blade Flurry is the way you are going to end most games. However, if you need to push damage through you typically want to at least get one swing in with your weapon. Some matchups you will make a large dagger and hold it, but that is not the case here. Here you want to get at least one charge since losing both to Harrison is not an option. Assassin’s Blade is very important in this matchup, and you should try to make a large dagger to bait out the archeologist before equipping the dagger unless you absolutely need to. Also, while saving Blade Flurry for Patrons is not a bad idea, you never want to sacrifice damage waiting for that play.

Midrange Hunter

Though face is a nightmare, Midrange Hunter has always been a favored matchup for Oil Rogue. That is no different here, and your plan should be the same that it has always been. Any Hunter playing rogue, regardless of what type they are, is going to try and race you down and force you to react to your plays. For this reason, you want to turn the tables and pressure early to make them fall back first. However, this is not always done by simply going face. Rather, you build this pressure by playing the tempo game during the early turns of the game and then building to your midgame.

Midrange Hunter plays very much like a tempo deck, building their board while removing opposing minions through avenues such as Eaglehorn Bow and Freezing Trap. If you can get a hold of the board early on, the game quickly falls out of their favor. This is mainly due to the fact that you can handle almost everything they play. However, there are two cards you need to watch out for;

Houndmaster and Savannah Highmane. Sap is the only real way to deal with Highmane, and you want to save it for the lion almost at all costs. On the other hand, Houndmaster can also really ruin your game. You want to avoid this by doing your best to make sure they can’t make stick a beast early on. Kill [card]Webspinners and Haunted Creepers on sight. If they are forced to play a minion and Houndmaster it in the same turn is allows you to react and keep up your board. Don’t extend into the hounds, force them to use their burn on your board and you should get out of this one just fine.

Tempo Mage

For the first time in the history of this series, I will admit that Tempo Mage is well primed for the current meta. That doesn’t mean it’s good, it just mean it’s good for the current meta. However, that does not at all mean it is well primed for our deck. Though Tempo Mage does a very good job of leveraging the early turns with cheap spells and strong minions, you can actually out tempo them through resources such as Backstab, SI:7 Agent and Preparation. The rule of this battle is the same it has always been; stop them from playing out their curve and you will win. Tempo Mage is a deck that only really exceeds when it does what it wants. You want to stop that from happening at all costs, especially when they can try and challenge you during the later turns.

While they can clear early on with tools such as Frostbolt or coin into Flamewaker, what really makes Tempo Mage scary is their late game. They have a ton of ways to do damage, and their later minions pack one heck of a punch. However, just like when facing Secrets Paladin, if you have the board before their big drops come out, it won’t matter if they play Dr. Boom or even Archmage Antonidas. Pressure will always trump large minions. As with Hunter, you need to try and force them to burn their removal on your board. No one likes wasting a Fireball on an Azure Drake, but if you can get them to make plays like that you should be fine. This is a matchup that heavily falls into your favor, and gets even easier if you have the coin. Simply out tempo them for the first few turns, and then once you have board, start attacking their face so that their recovery plays on turn seven or eight don’t matter.

Midrange/Combo Druid

In light of the Blizzcon Regional Qualifiers, it seems that many people are taking Druid to the ladder these says. While there are several versions of Druid to play (more on that next week) the most common is by far standard combo with the simple addition of Darnassus Aspirant. This is a deck that you want to be afraid of, but it is also one that you cannot respect. What does that mean? It means you want to be aware of the power they have, but you can’t let that power alter or change your overall gameplan. Sap is a must keep here if you see it, as it is the only way you can truly deal with [card]Innervate or a huge taunt. Druid is a class that largely plays a more reactive style of game, and that really falls into your favor. However, aspirant has made that a bit trickier, but if you can get an early board you will most likely take the game.

Against Druid the most important rule is to just get things onto the board. It doesn’t matter what those things are, just make sure they are things and they are on the board. Their removal is not great, and they have absolutely no AOE outside of Swipe (which is pretty weak here). This makes it so they have a hard time when you keep presenting more and more threats. Yes, taunts can be tricky to deal with, but you want to save your large weapons to clear them out. Weapons present damage as always, but in this match they should be used as your main mode of getting rid of Druid of the Claw, Sludge Belcher and the like. The combo is always going to be looming over your head, but know that your own combos are going to be looming over theirs. This may cause them to play more carefully than usual. However, if you do think you are starting to lose board, of if your weapon hits are causing you to slip low on health, try to clear everything they play as a way to stay above that fourteen point threshold.

Mulligan Guide

This is a pirate deck, and you want pirates. That is the overall rule of this deck, and a mantra you want to stick to when deciding how to mulligan. You are predominately searching for things that will help you curve out early on, and those are mainly pirates. Buccaneer, Bloodsail Raider, Southsea Deckhand and Ship’s Cannon are your must keeps, while you almost always want early removal (Backstab, Deadly Poison) if you have early minions to play it with. In contrast to this, you usually don’t want Dread Corsair unless you have a way to drop it’s cost way down on turn two or three. Otherwise it typically isn’t going to cost less until turn three or four, and at that point is too slow. Though many disagree, I also never like to keep Eviscerate unless I am playing Hunter (for Animal Companion) and I also have some early game to go with it. Remember, early minions are going to trump spells when mulliganing with this list.

When playing against Paladin you absolutely need to keep Blade Flurry and against Druid you want a Sap at your disposal. SI:7 Agent is a card that is an always keep with the coin, and almost always without it if you have access to other early game minions. You just never want to blindly keep the 3/3 without the coin. Preparation is a card you never want to keep since it usually doesn’t do enough early on. In that same vein, Azure Drake, Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil and Sprint all cost too much. However, Sprint can be kept with Preparation if you either have a good opening to go with it, or if you are playing against a slower control deck such as Priest. In addition, Priest is the only matchup where you want to keep Assassin’s Blade alongside a strong opening.

Conclusion

Arrr matey! This here be another Weekly Legends. I hope that this small foray into the world of Valeera Sanguinar was as enjoyable as it was informative. Know you are your own boss when it comes to this game. Don’t fall into the “popular opinion fallacy” and understand that there are tons of viable strategies in this game. Just because someone tells you a card or class is bad, doesn’t make it true. Even if you aren’t having success with a “bad” deck, keep working at the numbers before you throw in the towel. I personally love innovation of all kinds, and this deck really spoke to me because of that. Never stop dreaming, and never stop believing in your ideas. Keep up the grind, and keep thinking of new ways to play on the meta. Until next week, may you always Sprint on turn four.