Greetings army and welcome to my first guide for Hearthstone Players. I reached Legend in my first season of Hearthstone (S3) achieving Rank 35, as well as S4 peaking at Legend Rank 15 playing primarily Zoolock, Tempo/Aggro Rogue and Tempo Shaman.
I have always been of the firm opinion that if you can employ a more aggressive strategy to accomplish what you want, then you should do so regardless of popular opinion or personal bias. As a result you will rarely see me playing perceivably “slow” or “grindy” decks, much like today where we will be discussing some matchups and mulligan strategy for the exceedingly popular Aggro Rogue (aka Cancer Rogue).
Before we get started you all should know that my ultimate goal for this guide as well as future pieces will always be to create a symmetrical, informative, and easy to digest body of work that will hopefully translate directly to your comfort level and general mastery of Hearthstone. If at any point you feel I am failing at any of the aforementioned, don’t hesitate to leave a heartfelt response in the comment section. It will be read and responded to.
Also, I chose to discuss these particular matchups because they are 95% of the ladder where I currently am. This does not necessarily reflect every sub meta of each rank.
Priority keeps on the play (going 1st): Argent-squire, southsea-deckhand, leper-gnome, coldlight-oracle, King-mukla,Loot-hoarder.
The most important question you can ask yourself when in the mulligan phase with this list is “Am I applying enough early pressure?” If it’s not one of the above cards the answer is generally no. Arcane Golem is a fringe keep if the rest of your hand is looking solid, but potentially accelerating a Miracle player into a turn four Gadgetzan Auctioneer could give up our speed advantage and make the matchup very difficult.
Defias Ringleader is a fantastic card, but because we aren’t playing Backstab the odds of us being able to cast him profitably on turn 2 are almost non existant. The same applies with SI:7 Agent.
Priority keeps on the draw (going 2nd): Argent-squire, defias-ringleader, si7-agent, leper-gnome, king-mukla.
This is where the deck shines. Our turn two King Mukla, turn one Defias Ringleader, and turn two Cold Blood onto Argent Squire are all incredibly devastating plays that are allowed by the coin. In this particular matchup King Mukla takes the cake in terms of stopping power. Even if the opposing player has the turn 2 Sap, King Mukla is coming back down on an empty board turn 3 right where he left off leaving their only options to be inefficient two card combos that we’re ok with.Ironically enough SI:7 Agent is generally the most valuable when he is taking out an opposing SI:7 Agent, both because of our hero power and Miracle Rogue not playing many creatures. Saving our SI:7 Agent for the right moment can provide a massive tempo swing that an unsuspecting player will not be ready for, giving us a distinct advantage in the upcoming turns.
Priority keeps on the play: leper-gnome,king-mukla, argent-squire,southsea-deckhand.
Unfortunately because the majority of our early pressure is one toughness creatures a Druid’s hero power is exceptionally effective. That said we can’t take the time to play around it and must force him to choose between casting spells and tapping out to hero power in the early turns.
Opting to mulligan aggressively for King Mukla in this matchup is a reasonable strategy that could pay dividends in the midgame due to Druid’s not having one particular spell or creature that can tackle a 5/5. Their closest answer is a Druid of the Claw and without a Wild Growth to accelerate it in the early game they will be pretty much helpless against King Mukla with any sort of follow up behind it.
Priority keeps on the draw: leper-gnome, king-mukla, defias-ringleader, coldlight-oracle, deadly-poison, sap (if the rest of your hand permits).
The only thing better than having King Mukla on turn three is having him on turn two. If he is played on an open board Coldlight Oracle becomes a bomb and sap turns into an unconditional two mana removal spell that we would not have had before. Once again the coin has granted us a very tangible advantage.
Other strong plays include turn one Defias Ringleader or turn one Leper Gnome/Argent Squire into Defias/Coin/any one drop. Argent Squire is less of a force in this matchup because of Keeper of the Wild’s silence capability, but taking advantage of the divine shield on your turn with Cold Blood to knock down a problematic taunt is a likely scenario that you will be faced with.
Because most of the Druid variants on ladder this season are classified as “Taunt City”, your best bet is to bank a Deadly Poison or two for a huge swing into Blade Flurry. King Mukla may be a great offensive gameplan but realistically we won’t always have it, and Blade Flurry is our best form of reach to push damage through without him.
Overall Diffculty: Hard
Priority keeps on the play: argent-squire, leper-gnome, southsea-deckhand, coldlight-oracle.
As per usual the name of the game is pressure. Unlike most matchups King Mukla has a hard time being useful because creatures are constantly being played on both sides, which usually means giving the opponent free damage in the form of Bananas.
Because you’re both trying to go off as quickly as possible it’s often wise to Coldlight Oracle as soon as you can so your opponent doesn’t have the mana to use the cards he’s netting before you do. This may seem like an awkward logic train, but if you Coldlight in this matchup on turn 5 as opposed to turn 3 your opponent will have access to 3 new cards and 6 mana before you even have the ability to use the impactful spells you just drew. Now this doesn’t mean that using Coldlight on turn 3 is always correct but it is certainly something to consider when choosing your opening hand.
Learning when to use Argent Squire/Cold Blood at the right moment in this matchup is gamebreaking. The only efficient answer to this is Sap, but if our opponent is in the same mindset that we are and is choosing his opening hand based on optimal early pressure he likely will not keep a random sap in the rogue mirror.
Priority keeps on the draw: argent-squire, si7-agent, king-mukla, defias-ringleader, coldlight-oracle.
Unlike being on the play King Mukla is extremely valuable with the coin. On the draw we have the luxury of casting Defias Ringleader or SI:7 Agent on turns one/two respectively which will almost always clear the board for a turn three monkey. Their only option is then to tap out and sap the 5/5 or commit to an inefficient Eviscerate play.
If our opponent plays a turn one Argent Squire it is usually in our best interest to kill it before it becomes untouchable with Cold Blood. This may seem counter intuitive to the decks general gameplan, but if a 5/1 with evasion is allowed to ride on board by the time we are able to deal with it effectively it will be too late.
Overall Difficulty: Moderate
Priority keeps on the play: leper-gnome, coldlight-oracle, sap, argent-squire, si7-agent, deadly-poison.
This matchup is actually so bad for us that we have to take drastic measures to get profitable trades on board with SI:7 Agent. Zoo is the only deck in the format that is both quick and resilient enough to keep up with us while retaining board position. All of these games will be decided by whether or not Deadly Poison was used effectively in tandem with our single Blade Flurry. If you are facing a considerable amount of Zoo on ladder I would definitely consider cutting one Sap/Loot Hoarder to make room for one or two Backstabs.
Priority keeps on the draw: si7-agent, defias-ringleader, deadly-poison, leper-gnome, southsea-deckhand.
Being on the draw improves this matchup a little because we can potentially turn one or two a Defias Ringleader/SI:7 to trade with his early 2 toughness creatures. This is obviously not a permanent solution because Zoo can draw through their deck much faster than we can, but it’s the first step to taking and retaining board control. That is usually our only hope of winning.
Overall Difficulty: Extreme
Priority keeps on the play: leper-gnome, argent-squire, deadly-poison, southsea-deckhand, sap.
The best thing we could possibly hope for in the Handlock matchup is two Leper Gnomes into some follow up pressure. This forces their turn 4 Hellfire to be extremely unstable and usually provides us with enough of a window to close the game out cleanly. Argent Squire/Cold Blood is also very effective in most situations due to Handlock’s lack of board presence until the later turns.
King Mukla in conjunction with Coldlight Oracle/Sap is your bread and butter for removing problematic taunts if you have it in your opener or draw into the pieces. This is almost always what we save Coldlight for in all control matchups whether it be Handlock, Freeze Mage, Control Warrior or Shaman. All of them are effectively the same. Use your creatures to provide early pressure and punish them for trying to play several concurrent draw spells.
Always keep an accurate count of how many cards they have on the current turn and how many they will have next turn in order to take full advantage of your Coldlights.
Priority keeps on the draw: defias-ringleader, king-mukla, coldlight-oracle, southsea-deckhand, leper-gnome, argent-squire, sap.
Being on the play against Aggro Rogue as Handlock is a pretty terrifying scenario. There is very little you can do to stop a board swarm early outside of crippling yourself on card advantage with an early Soulfire on a 2/2 just to live through turn five. Handlock’s best play against you is a turn two Ancient Watcher with an owl to silence it the following turn. This gives them some board presence and keeps Coldlight Oracle from decimating their hand.
Even if the Handlock player provides some early resistance they will not be able to continuously commit to the board without stopping to life tap for a turn, which is our opportunity to use our Cold Blood/Wolf Rider or Arcane Golem to really pressure them.
If your hand allows for it I sometimes wait until turn 6 if I know I can land an Assassin’s Blade/Deadly Poison and follow it up with a Blade Flurry. This doesn’t come up too often but when it does you generally have way too much reach for your opponent to deal with that late in the game.
Overall Difficulty: Moderate
I don’t play against any other decks enough to warrant giving matchup analysis for them. You should be able to apply what you’ve learned here to most of your other games regardless of the Hero.
Thanks for the read and again if you have any feedback whatsoever I would love to hear it. Feel free to follow me on twitter if you’d like to pick my brain about any questions you may have regarding Hearthstone or life in general @itsProtoHype, and if you missed the link to my stream it’s at the top of the page.
Good luck on the ladder!