Rogue. While everyone has been focused on figuring out where Priest went, I have been wondering what on Earth happened to Valeera Sanguinar. If you have been following my New Standard series (and you really should be if you haven’t) I love looking into many decks that have not quite lived up to their potential. While nobody through Rogue was going to shake up the meta, they also didn’t think it would disappear to this extent. The class is just about gone, and I find that quite sad. However, there are still a few legend lists hanging on here and there. This week we are going to dive into one of those builds in Questing Adventurer Rogue. This is a very interesting Rogue that blends a lot of elements together to form a strong, cohesive deck. There is some Miracle and combo potential here, a little bit of burst, and a whole lot of tempo.
This deck is very cool because it is Miracle Rogue for a different meta. One of the biggest problems with Miracle or Miracle-like decks is that they are inherently reactive in a game where it pays to be proactive. Once upon a time, when minions were worse and the game was slower, that was fine. However, in a world of Totem Golems, Mana Wyrms and Tunnel Troggs that just isn’t going to fly. You need to be able to hit your opponent early and often to survive in today’s meta. This deck does that very well, but it also has the classic Miracle gameplan where you can easily win if you live until the middle turns. That is a very cool mesh of midrange and combo that turns this into a solid hybrid between that I haven’t seen in years.
A big part of Rogue is controlling the tempo of the game. While that has traditionally been done with spells, this deck does it with minions. Though you have solid threats all the way up the curve, Swashburglar and Undercity Huckster are what really allow this deck to operate. Having something on the board during the early turns is very important in today’s Hearthstone. It does not matter if that is a 1/1 or a 2/2, the extra damage and board presence is invaluable against curve-centric decks like Hunter or Shaman. While this list has a lot going on, the overall goal is to buy time until you have enough time to play your bigger threats and combo off. In this way it works a lot like Miracle, where you just need to stall for as long as you can without taking too much damage. These early minions really help with that by forcing your opponent to react to your board instead of your face, all while proving value for later in the game.
You always want to open the game with these cards. However, do not forget what they can do later on. There are going to be some games where you need access to something that isn’t in your deck, such as healing or taunts. When that occurs, you want to play these cards if you have them over trying to dig through your deck. Yes, it is unlikely you are going to get the exact answer you need, but 1 in 100 is much better than the zero percent chance of digging through your deck. In addition, know you do not always need to play Swashburglar right away. It is easy to just automatically put the 1/1 down on turn one without thinking about it, but this card can do a lot of combo triggering. For instance, if you have Eviscerate in you hand against a Hunter that had no turn one play it is right to save the one drop to play with Eviscerate on turn three to answer Animal Companion.
While Conceal has always been strong in Rogue, here it is your win condition. You run two of the spell because of that, and it is always going to serve one of two functions. You are either going to use it to stealth Gadgetzan Auctioneer in true Miracle fashion, or you are going to hide a giant Questing Adventurer or Edwin Vancleef. You typically want to make this call based on the board and the way the game is going. If you can go all in on something big against a class that does not have the AOE that’s the play you generally want to make. However, a lot of the games you are not going to use it before turn six and use it to set up a huge auctioneer. This play can feel wrong, but know you always have the second one in your deck. As such, drawing through with your Auctioneer usually puts you in position to go big later on.
Beyond the above uses, know there is a lot of versatility when it comes to the way you play this card. Just hiding a minion that is equipped with Cold Blood can be a great way to push damage, as can stealthing a couple of midrange threats. Stealth is a very strong ability because it limits what your opponent can do. While your first mode is to combo-off, know that once you hide a threat your opponent is going to have one turn to answer that as best they can. They might push damage, they might put up taunts or they might heal, but it forces out a play. As a result, Conceal can be fantastic for tempo. Almost all decks in Hearthstone plan a few turns ahead to anticipate a curve and you can blow somebody out of the water if the kill spells they were planning on using suddenly have no targets.
While Sap is very self explanatory in its function, it is a very important part of this deck. The reason I bring it up is because you only get to use this card once. The ability to send something back to the hand is extremely powerful, especially when facing decks that run a lot of heavy midrange minions. However, using it on the wrong target or at the wrong time can be a disaster. The general rule when deciding whether to Sap a minion is to only hit things you cannot easily remove though other spells (such as Ancient of War or Savannah Highmane), or to use it as a way to protect your board when pushing for lethal. Every deck you face is going to have a set Sap target and you want to save this card for that target unless you absolutely need to use it at another time. It is usually right to use this on a big minion instead of trading away your board. The two mana spell is a very good out and you generally want to use it as a last form of removal because of just how clean it is.
Note: If you are pushing hard against decks with big taunts you should save this for any walls that might jump in your way.
The deck’s namesake, Questing Adventurer (along with Edwin Vancleef) is your win condition. However, it is not the only way you win. That may sound odd, but this card comes in two different modes and you need to understand each. First is using this as a big minion/win condition. Going in Questing Adventurer can be a risky venture, but it can also pay off with huge dividends. That is because it is almost going to be lethal (or it will set up lethal) if it connects. Playing the three drop with Conceal is mode number one, but if you are going to do that you want to make sure you can grow it out of your opponent’s AOE range as well. There is nothing worse than building a 4/4 adventurer with Conceal only to have it immediately die to Lightning Storm/Maelstrom Portal. However, you don’t always have to hide this for it to be good. Just having a 6/6 or so on the board is also going to threaten a lot of popular decks.
The other part of Questing Adventurer is knowing that you don’t need to go big with it. It is very easy to get caught up in the 2/2’s ability and want to just make him massive. However, this is a tempo deck that is built in such a way where you don’t need combos to win. In fact, unless I am playing a Conceal turn, I will run this out as a 3/3 or a 4/4 in situations where my opponent is light on removal or when I have the board. This then threatens a ton of damage and forces your opponent to use removal rather than playing a minion. You want to use this in the same way Dragon Warrior uses Frothing Berserker. Sometimes it is going to win you the game out of nowhere, but most of the time it is a simple tempo play that puts the squeeze on your opponent and threatens lethal by itself. There are many ways to do huge chunks of damage in this deck and you don’t want to lose because you played your whole hand on turn four.
Dark Iron Skulker
While many decks run one Dark Iron Skulker, I find two to be very strong in this Shaman-dominated meta. Skulker is the only real AOE Rogue has access to, and while it may be situational, it is very good. So good that I decided to add a second after wishing it was in my hand one too many times. Though there are quite a lot of different decks out there, the big three are Druid, Shaman and Hunter. Each of those likes to put a lot of minions on the board. Having this card helps you get some huge tempo swings in those matches and brings you back into games you would normally lose. Also note that your opponent will never expect (nor play around) the second one, so you can be greedy with it if you’ve already used the first.
If you are seeing a different meta than me, or if you simply want to replace this card out of personal preference, I would look at running a second Sap. The card does not have quite as many targets as it once did (which is why there is only one) but you can still get a lot of use out it when comboing off. Fan of Knives seems to be a popular choice, but I don’t really see the value in it unless you have Bloodmage Thalnos on board. Drawing cards is nice, but you have enough ways to do that without needing to dilute your deck. If you really want to make your game stronger against Shamans, skulker is the way to go.
The five decks that I see the most when playing on the ladder.
Midrange Shaman still proves to be king of the ladder, and will most likely keep that position for the foreseeable months (nerfs be damned). Though many have told me this is a bad matchup, I find it to be quite in our favor. Even without the double skulker (which always helps) you have a ton of ways to contest the early board and challenge their plays. Today’s Shaman is a deck that thrives off of a strong curve, so you want to spend the early turns of the game just keeping them off of that curve as much as possible. Use your early minions to trade into their totems and use your powerful spells to take down all of their threats. This will help you make a smooth transition into the middle game where you can start playing bigger threats. The more early game pressure you keep off of your face the easier it will be to set up your big combos or large minions because you will be able to take slow turns where you hoard cards in your hand.
While pressure and board control are both important, they are going to simply serve as distractions. This is a game you are going to win with Conceal. Most Shamans today depend on spot removal to answer big threats, and if you can get down a huge minion a that they cannot interact with chances are they are not going to win. In addition, if you can stealth a Gadgetzan Auctioneer you should also be able to pull this out. Just know that every Shaman runs Maelstrom Portal, and most of them also pack Lightning Storm. While those cannot hurt you on their own, they can deal with an auctioneer or adventurer when paired together. Try to bait at least one these out before going all-in if you can or make sure your adventurer is large when you hide it. In addition, always clear their totems to reduce their chances of rolling spell damage.
Public enemy number two, Midrange/Secret Hunter is a very powerful deck that is also one of your hardest matchups. Hunter has always done well against combo Rogue decks because they have enough pressure and damage to kill you before you ever get set. This game is going to play a bit like Shaman in that you want to work hard to control the first two or three turns. However, instead of switching to one giant minion during the middle stages, you simply need to get any kind of board you can. Unless you have a Conceal, it is unlikely you are going to have access to a way to deal with Hunter’s later turns. As such, you need them to play removal instead of minions. This will also keep burn off of your face. Play out what you can and work hard to finish the game around turn six and seven.
You are going to win this match through pressure. That does not necessarily mean you have to get in a lot of damage early and rush your opponent down, but rather you need to look for opportunities to get in big hits before key turns. For instance, putting a Cold Blood on a turn four Tomb Pillager and going face to stop a Savannah Highmane or just making a large Questing Adventurer to discourage them curving right into Houndmaster. Save your Sap for the lion if you can and watch out for Deadly Shot. Though the card is not popular these days, you still should be aware of it. Stealth something alongside a big threat if you can.
Though once so far gone, Control Warrior has exploded back onto the ladder. Garrosh is very tricky for you to take down, but this game is quite possible if you pace it in the correct way. Know that you are going to have all of the priority during this game and you are going to control the turns. That is to say, your job is to play cards and your opponent’s job is to answer them. Though Warrior has many ways to heal and remove minions, you can easily out pressure them by just playing large minion after large minion and then using that pressure to build into game-ending threats they simply cannot answer. Warrior is going to fear your burst, which is going to cause them to use premium removal at all parts of the game. Understand this and count their spells to gain a steady advantage.
To win this match you need to force out as much removal as you can. Conceal is going to win the game, but the first one is almost always going to bait out a Brawl. The AOE card is the only way Warrior can kill a stealthed threat, so you typically want to only Conceal one large minion at a time. In addition, if you are going to conceal you typically want to make sure the board is empty. They can (and will) kill their own Sylvanas Windrunner at times, but that isn’t something you can play around. You just want to create a constant string of threats. The last note is to sneak in your hero power when possible. They can gain a lot of armor and you need to reduce it as much as possible. Every damage counts in this match.
Like Hunter, Tempo Mage is a very fast deck that can exploit your lack of healing with quick damage and powerful bust. However, unlike Hunter, you have a lot of ways to easily kill their minions all across the curve. This is a game where you simply want to play control as much as you can until you can get either a Gadgetzan Auctioneer or huge threat to stick. Mage has a lot of removal, but it also doubles as their burst. This means they are going to have a lot of trouble dealing with large minions. Though they can remove them, it costs them a lot of cards and a lot of damage to do so. Even if they wipe your entire board, if it causes them to use most or all of their hand you will be able to take the game. You want this game to go long so you can set up ample burst.
This is another match up where you only want to play Conceal when your opponent cannot deal with it. Though rare, some Mages do run Flamestrike and you should be aware of the seven mana card when hiding a minion like Gadgetzan Auctioneer. In the same vein, they also have access to Arcane Missiles and Flamewaker. You want to make sure they have used those options before trying to conceal, or you want to make something so big their removal cannot touch it. This is a game where priority is key. It is easy to get anxious but you can afford to take your time. You never have to be the aggressor until you’re ready to set up lethal and you never want to die simply by getting greedy and letting something live.
Though I am not sure where this deck will be in the coming weeks (which is why has fallen to number five) Maly Druid is a top contender in the meta right now. It is also your easiest matchup. Rogue has some of the best mid-game threats in Hearthstone, which spells doom for Malfurion’s lack of hard removal. Druid has never been able to deal with large threats, nor have they been able to deal with a string of solid bodies. You simply want to curve out as best you can here and use that early presence to set up larger bodies. This is the one match where you want to go all in on a big minion because if your opponent doesn’t have a Mulch the game is going to over. Even if they do have a way to deal with it, it is often going to cost them a lot of cards and maybe even an Innervate. Know that minions are more important than abilities here. If you can play a turn three SI:7 Agent you should, even if you don’t have the combo. Once you get ahead on board Druid is not going to be able to come back. Pace this game by forcing your opponent to use answers and always use spells to protect your board.
Mulliganing with this deck is quite simple because there are so many cards you do not want. Your must keeps are Swashburglar, Backstab and Undercity Huckster, while you never want to keep Preparation, Cold Blood, Conceal, Questing Adventurer, Edwin Vancleef or Sap. Bloodmage Thalnos can be kept if you have an early spell to go with it, and you want to keep Eviscerate against any class where you can make use of killing a four health minion (Shaman, Hunter, Mage).
Shadow Strike and SI:7 Agent can both be kept with the coin or if you have a good curve. Tomb Pillager and Xaril, Poisoned Mind follow these rules as well, but they can also be kept on their own if you are facing down a deck that isn’t great against midrange minions (such as Druid or Rogue). Dark Iron Skulker and Gadgetzan Auctioneer are usually too slow to keep. However, you can keep one skulker if you have the coin against Shaman, and you can keep Auctioneer with the coin when playing against slow control like Warrior or Paladin.
Valeera, oh how I’ve missed you. Though Rogue is not my most played class, it is one that I do enjoy. Piloting tempo is always fun because it allows you to combo off and apply pressure in a way that no other deck style does. Getting the Miracle plays from this list is an extra bonus that really ups that fun factor. There’s just a lot love in this list and it feels familiar enough while also feeling different. It’s always cool when that happens. Until next week, may you always quest for adventure.