Guide: Nightblade Rogue
Today we feature an article from Dreadmaker, who will talk about his unique Rogue deck that's making strong waves in the Hearthstone meta!
Rogues these days have it tough. Miracle may be coming back, but it gets killed by the aggro decks that are so prominent on the ladder at the moment. Tempo is always good, but it tends to be overshadowed by other, more popular archetypes (particularly control). The rogue is a very versatile class, and it has some of the most efficient removal in the game – surely there must be some way to bring it back into its rightful place at the top of the ladder?
This deck is my attempt to bring a new kind of archetype into rogue gameplay. It focuses on the efficiency and power of the rogue’s excellent weapons, as well as the versatility of shadowstep to outmaneuver and out-value your opponent. Happily enough, it isn’t gimmicky either – it’s smooth, fast, and reliable. It can dominate the early game, and sometimes ramp up so quickly that it turns into a very fast victory. Other times – against rush, for instance – you can sit back and control in the early game until they’re out of steam and you draw into your leeroy combo. It’s tough to label this deck as aggro, midrange, or control – it can wear all of these hats fairly effectively. But, if I had to label it as anything, it would be closest to a more control-oriented tempo rogue.
The real key to playing the deck well is to be smart about it. Rogue decks in general require a lot of thinking – the combo mechanic necessitates more planning than with other classes. Rogue decks in general also require a lot of understanding of card value, and a strong knowledge of when to use removal and when not to. This deck isn’t for beginners. However, if you have experience playing at the higher ranks, I’ve found this deck to be versatile, reliable, and a lot of fun.
Last season, I didn’t get a lot of time in with this deck because I didn’t get much play time in general. However, I consistently had a 75% win rate at about rank 6-7 with it. Moreover, I took this deck into the 23rd North American Managrind tournament and came in second, and so I would argue that it is absolutely competitive at high levels of play – This season, I’ll certainly be going for legend with it!
Some of these cards, like Backstaband SI:7 Agentare easily included in basically every rogue deck – I won’t talk about them. Instead, I’ll talk about and justify the other ones that might seem a bit odd.
This is a weird one, but when used correctly, you can get incredible value and utility out of this guy. It's an obvious combo with Leeroy Jenkins, but there are other combos hiding in here that are worth talking about.
Control warlocks present a problem for a lot of Rogue decks – the massive taunt minions put a halt to any kind of tempo advantage very fast. This deck has an efficient way of dealing with this, though: Shadowstep a Big Game Hunter. This is a 4 mana solution that can take out 2 taunted giants! This is also a great trick against control warriors.
Shadowstep can be used in a bind with the SI:7 agent to provide an additional 2 damage for 1 mana at basically any point. If you’re hurting for cards, you can use shadowstep with a (preferably damaged) Azure Drake.
And, finally, you can use Shadowstep with the Abusive Sergeant to get the maximum value out of his buff and make trades that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to make. This isn’t a good card for all rogue decks, but this one is built specifically to have a lot of synergy with it!
Deadly Poison: This is a great card for its synergy with the weapons in the deck, but especially with blade flurry - even if you only use it on your default daggers, you can make blade flurry more effective than a Consecration for less mana!
This is a wonderful 1-drop, not only for the fact that it's good to play on turn one against anything that isn’t a mage, a druid, or a rogue, but also because it never becomes useless. You can play it at any point in the game to make trades more efficient, or to get a little extra damage out of an attack. There’s also a neat trick you can pull with this: if the enemy has a big minion in the way that doesn’t quite have 7 attack (say, a Fire Elemental), you can drop the Abusive Sergeant, buff your opponent’s minion, and then drop a big game hunter to kill it. Plus, if nothing else, it’s a good combo starter.
In some ways, this is the real crux of this deck. It's a very efficient card, and if you can get spellpower into it from the Azure Drakeor Bloodmage Thalnos, all the better. Don't be afraid to use this card early - it hits the enemy hero, too, so it's a good deal in basically all circumstances!
There really is nothing in the game as effective as this card for changing tempo in the midgame. Think about it: On turn six, you can drop a Perdition's Blade, Deadly Poison, and Blade Flurry. The Perdition’s blade will do 1 damage to something on the board, or the enemy hero, and 4 extra damage to presumably the hero, and then the Blade Flurry will do 4 damage to everything on the board. It’s like a cheaper Flamestrikethat also deals 9 extra damage to the enemy hero!
This is better than Assassinatefor this deck (and I think in general) on a few levels. Sap requires the enemy to make decisions much more than Assassinate does, and frankly, the likelihood of them slowing their own tempo down so much in order to play the same thing as last turn is low.
It's great for postponing having to deal with tough minions for another turn and a better card draw, and also for pushing through a taunt. It's also cheap enough (unlike assassinate) that you can push through even more damage or minions on the same turn you play it. Be conscious of the fact that the opponent can play the card you sap again – this is a great thing to do to Earth Elemental(because of the overload), for example, but a bad thing to do to Fire Elemental(because of the battlecry).
This is an excellent card for rogue decks. Spellpower to help with Blade Flurry and all of the other spell damage cards, as well as card draw. Don't ever play him on turn 2 or on his own, unless you're really hurting for cards; try to save him for when you can get more value out of your spells with him.
This is an incredible card for the rogue. In a weapon-centered deck like this, you'd be crazy not to have it. Even with the Rogue's basic hero power, this becomes a 3/3 for 2 mana, which is a deal you can't get anywhere else, and when Deadly Poisoncomes into play, or the Perdition's Blade, or the Assassin's Blade, or any combination of those things, she gets to be incredible.
Good card in its own right AND it synergizes brilliantly with the hero power and 5 other cards in the deck. This can be the key to a very scary, aggressive start, or to forcing removal in the mid-game. All for only 2 mana!
As with any rogue deck, card draw is a problem. You’re going to be spending more cards than your opponent almost 100% of the time, particularly in control matchups, because our cards are so cheap. It gives us a lot of flexibility, but it’s also a curse. The Loot Hoarder is one of the ways we mitigate that.
This card has such incredible value. It is almost always a 2 for 1 card, and sometimes a 3 for 1 card; it is completely fundamental to early game board control. It's also great in the late game for damaging your enemy over his taunts, if you're close to victory, and it's great for a blade flurry deadly poison combo.
Big Game Hunter
This is our defense against control decks, and a great one at that. It has decent value on its own, but if it saves you from a giant, all the better. Against warriors and control warlocks, the value only increases when using it with Shadowstep.
This is one of the several win conditions in the deck, and it does a great job at it. It’s almost never a dead card. With this deck, it's also quite playable even when it won't immediately win you the game - you can use Blade Flurry immediately after you play him to clean up the whelps he spawns.
This is one of our solutions to aggro decks, and a solid 4 drop in its own right. It’s much better than a yeti in the current meta, I would argue - that one extra damage isn't going to save you in 90% of cases, but the taunt most certainly can.
I only have one of these in there because you simply don't need more. It has 4 durability, and it'll be a rare game that you'll use up all four charges before you blade flurry with it. Great finisher, and a great pressure card – just like the hunter’s hero power, in a lot of ways, this card can put a timer on the match, and force the opponent to act quickly. With deadly poison, this 5 mana card can ultimately do 20 damage!
Finally, your get-out-of-jail-free card. This will win you the game in a top-deck war, and it will also give you plenty of options as long as you have board control. Not great when you're very behind, but if you're moderately behind, or neutral, it'll often save you. It can also be great to draw into the victory, if you get a combo like Deadly Poison/Assassin's Blade, Blade Flurry, or Shadowstep/Leeroy.
Don’t have Leeroy Jenkinsor Bloodmage Thalnos? Well, they’re both incredible legendaries that can fit into most decks – if you’re thinking about whether to craft them, do it! However, if this isn’t possible, they can be replaced in this deck reasonably effectively. For Bloodmage Thalnos, substitute a Kobold Geomancer. The main purpose of Bloodmage Thalnos is the spellpower that you can drop whenever you’d like – in the late game, it’s an excellent tool to push your blade flurries or eviscerates over the edge and clear your opponent’s board. The card draw is only a bonus, and so the Kobold Geomancer is the obvious replacement.
For Leeroy Jenkins, if you want to keep the spirit of the deck, an Arcane Golemis probably your best bet. Reckless Rocketeeris another option, though probably the inferior of the two, because if its cost. Otherwise, this can be flavor - it's up to you!
Additionally, the deck only has one epic, the Big Game Hunter, but it’s worth mentioning how to replace him if you don’t have it (another wonderful card that you should craft if you don’t have it!). The most effective replacement is likely Assassinate, even though it’s an imperfect solution – it allows you to kill anything, not just something with 7+ attack, but at the cost of not being a minion, being 5 mana, and not having synergy with Shadowstep.
General Strategy / How to Play the Deck
In the early game, you generally want to control. Do your best to put minions out and take board control yourself, but your prime directive in the early game is to make sure your opponent doesn't have a board. This varies a little bit - against aggressive decks, you want to do this even harder, but against control decks, you should try to be quite aggressive yourself. With that idea in mind, when you’re deciding what your opening hand will be, you should direct it towards a minion-heavy and aggressive start.
Try to keep things like the Perdition's Bladeand the SI:7 Agent, particularly if you have The Coin or Backstab. In every circumstance, you want to keep Bloodsail Raiders – they are the key to establishing really efficient early game control. Loot Hoarders are great too, and although it isn’t ideal to play on turn one, especially if you aren’t against a mage, druid, or rogue, you’ll want to keep the Abusive Sergeant. You basically want to get rid of everything else. Most of your spells are overkill in the early game, and of course, anything over about 3 mana simply won’t give you a fast enough start.
There are two different super-valuable hands that will almost guarantee a strong early-mid game. The first, with the coin, is:
• Turn 1: Coin -> Hero power
• Turn 2: Bloodsail Raider
This puts out a 3/3 on turn 2 and gives you the ability to damage and potentially kill any opposing threats with your hero.
Without the coin, the start is a bit slower, but much more devastating:
• Turn 1: Nothing/Abusive Sergeant
• Turn 2: Hero Power
• Turn 3: Deadly Poison -> Bloodsail Raider
This combo gives you a 3/2 weapon (if you have deadly poison in hand, try to not use your hero daggers the turn you get them!) to take out anything on the opponent’s board, as well as a 5/3 minion on turn 3! This is one of the fastest, scariest starts you can have in all of Hearthstone!
Going into the mid-game, try to damage your opponent incidentally where you can. Often, you'll be able to clear their board and keep board presence yourself with only spells and your hero’s attack, in much the same style as a tempo rogue, which means you can often hit the enemy for 3-6 damage a turn in ideal circumstances.
This is where we can start to use Deadly Poisonwith Blade Flurry to melt the opponent's board and really take control. In the late game, after you've clearly established board control, one of your easiest win conditions is the Leeroy Jenkins combo. However, this isn't your only win condition at all! Often, you can just burn down your opponent with spells, direct damage from creatures, or help from a deadly poisoned assassin's blade. Sprintcan also win games for you by providing you with combos when you and your opponent are top-decking. There are a lot of ways this deck can win!
This deck handles Murlock decks, Zoo, Face Hunters, and non-Face Rush Hunters the same way. You want to keep their board as clean as possible. Against Face Hunters in particular, you want to be very selective about when you use your weapon to kill things – their goal is to burst you down quickly, and so helping them too much is not advised.
Make heavy use of the Perdition’s Blade’s battlecry and the SI:7 agent, making use of Shadowstep if you have to. Try to be as efficient as possible while still getting a board presence. Against the other types of rush, try to get a blade flurry/deadly poison lined up. Generally, you can actually be greedy with it – don’t just use it on one or two creatures when instead, you can use it on 4. Just be smart about it and do your best to accurately assess the sort of damage your opponent can do – if it starts to get scary, clean it up.
Shamans these days are either running a mid-range variant (more likely) or a control variant (less likely). In either case, the key to them winning is always in their ability to keep things on the board. They have powerful buffs, and in the case of Bloodlustshamans, obviously they have bloodlust as their win condition, and so your job is to never let them get to critical mass with creatures. Don’t overreact – blowing a Backstabon a totem is almost never the right thing to do.
That said, as long as you keep their board clean so that they can’t get a foothold, the game should be yours. Also, make sure to pay attention to when they overload – it will give you a better understanding of their capabilities in the following turn, and allow you to plan better.
Against Control Warriors
Control Warriors are a bit of a toss-up for us. If we get a good start (like the above-mentioned Deadly Poison/Bloodsail Raider on turn 3), we can often overwhelm them before they get a chance to establish control. However, if they do end up establishing control, you’ll be in it for the long haul.
Keep your Big Game Hunterin hand for the legendaries, and don’t be afraid to take some damage by removing his creatures – the closer you both are to 15 health around turn 9, the less effective his Alexstraszawill be. In this one, you’ll almost certainly be trying to line up for the Leeroy Jenkins combo as your finisher, so keep that in mind, and do your best to hang on to your shadowsteps.
Against Control Warlocks (i.e. Handlocks)
Handlocks aren’t as scary to this deck as they are to a lot of others. You have the Big Game Hunter for the late game, and in the early game, they tend to give you free reign of the board. If you can get out one of the super early combos that results in you having a 5/3, you will often scare them into playing a sub-optimal opening game, using cards in a way that will interfere with their Twilight Drake/Mountain Gianttiming. Start aggressive, but just like with the control warrior, don’t be afraid to sit back with Leeroy into the late game.
Druids have traditionally been tough for Rogues. Their above-average number of taunts is a scary thing for us. Do your best to save Sapfor bigger creatures, and be careful with your removal. For Savage Roar/Force of Naturestyle druids, you also want to be careful about your health – that combo does 14 damage if they have an empty board, so be cautious using your weapons too much in the early game.
Token druids are the easier matchup; it doesn’t matter how many things they have on the board when you have Blade Flurry! As with any token-centric deck, do your best to keep their board clean and you’ll be well on your way to winning.
One of the inherent difficulties of Rogue decks generally is card draw – there are so many excellent low-mana cards that you’ll often lose
The biggest counter to this deck is a lot of taunts. As such, Handlocks and Druids can sometimes pose problems. Another counter is very strong midrange decks. While this deck has many ways to get speed in the early game and can hold its own in the late game, dealing with many beefy mid-range creatures can be tricky. If you combine these things, you find that one of the best counters to this deck is actually the paladin. They’re beefy, and can become even more so with their use of divine shield. Tirion Fordringis our worst nightmare. The good news is that Paladins are seeing an all-time low in play at the moment because of how ineffective they seem to be in the current meta, and so we don’t see this matchup very often!
steam going into late game. This deck has a number of mechanics to avoid this problem – Loot Hoarder, Azure Drake, Bloodmage Thalnos, Sprint– but even still, you need to be careful with how you play your cards. If you maximize card value, you should be okay, but it certainly is a potential weakness of this deck that it can run into problems with draw in the late game.
Conclusions and Further Resources
This deck, at the end of the day, is versatile and fun. It does a great job in most matchups, and it can be played both aggressively and in a more controlling way to equal effect. It can take a little while to learn the deck and to understand how it plays, but practice makes perfect!
In addition to this guide, I’ve created some video resources to go along with it as well. Not only have I made a deck overview video and a deck trial video (where I play several ranked matches and talk about how it’s working), but I also recorded and uploaded all of the matches from the 23rd North American Managrind tournament that I played with this deck, and so you can see it working in a real live high-stakes environment!
Additionally, my Youtube channel is active, and I regularly put out Hearthstone content – as I join the fight for legendary this season, I’ll undoubtedly post a few more videos laddering with the deck. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments of the videos – I’m usually pretty quick to respond.
I hope you have as much fun playing the deck as I do, and I hope it’s as effective for you as it is for me! Good luck, and happy laddering!
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