Weekly Legends: Jade Rogue
By the time you guys see this, Knights spoiler discussions (led by yours truly) will be well underway. However, at the time I am writing this there is still a ways to go before we get to that point. As a result, I thought I'd go ahead and cover some more fun, legend-caliber decks to help you guys add a little bit of freshness before things start to get chilly. This week we are going to cover Jade Rogue, an old deck that has had varied success in the past. As with so many past builds, this week's version has a staple core that comes with a few tweaks for the current meta. That is an important rule I have brought up many times. Do not be afraid to look back into history. Not only can using a deck that you are more familiar with make you win a couple extra games here and there, but the slight changes also can give it a rather fresh feeling. That is what we're going to study today.
Mistress of Mixtures
One of Jade Rogue's biggest weaknesses has always been aggro. The deck has a strong punch, but your cool combos and large bodies simply don't matter while you're getting repeatedly smacked in the face. In fact, many times you just get blasted early on and cannot come back without a slew of strong removal. Token Shaman, Aggro Druid, Murloc Paladin, and Pirate Warrior are everywhere right now, and you need ways to fight them. Though you may be able to take down one or two threats, answers or board presence often come too late. Mistress of Mixtureshelps with this because she gives you something to play on the board right away. The healing is important, but this card is much more relevant as a 2/2 for one than anything else. You are a midrange deck looking to fight against a sea of fast decks. To be able to do that you have to get on board as soon as possible. Always lead with the one drop, even if it means not getting any health (such as simply trading into an Enchanted Raven). Early presence is almost always going to be worth more. Also note that the 2/2 also has great synergy with N'Zoth, the Corruptor. Sometimes racing to the 5/7 can be a great move when you need to get extra life at the end of a game.
It is impossible to run a Jade Rogue deck without Jade Shuriken. That is an obvious statement, but I bring up the two mana spell to make note of how important it is to set this card up. This list is a midrange build. However, it is a midrange build that seeks to get massive amounts of value from its minions. A big part of that is playing as many Jade Golems as you possibly can. You do not have too many activators for the statues in this build, which typically means you cannot afford to use the shuriken just for two damage. Though that will come up from time to time, you want to always think about how to get the shuriken to trigger. This can mean holding back cards, or it can mean saving it for a later turn. Do not just play it because you can. Try your best to set it up for maximum value.
A big part of Rogue has always been calculating your combo. The class is predicated on the idea of chaining spells, and that means you have to constantly think about future turns. There are many games where you want to hold off on a turn one Swashburglarfor a turn three Eviscerateor Jade Shuriken, and the same thing applies to cards like Backstaband Southsea Deckhand. Your cheap cards are strong in their own right, but they get most of their value from being combo activators. When playing a deck like this one you always want to scope out your future curve. Do not simply think about what you can do right away. Rather, think about how much value it can get later on. Do you need to activate something in your hand? If not, run out your card. If you do, hold back.
Fan of Knives
This deck runs both Bloodmage Thalnosand Kobold Geomancer. That is a strange choice, but it makes sense when you understand just how important spell power is. The extra 1 damage allows for some insane tempo swings, and it is especially powerful when paired with Fan of Knives. As mentioned above (and below) there are a lot of decks in the current meta that want to flood the board. Those builds seek to end the game quickly and want to push for as much damage as they possibly can. For those reasons, they give you the most trouble. In order to fight back against the flood this list runs double fan alongside two ways to make it stronger. That blend helps you both push tempo and get back into games where you've fallen behind. Though not as strong as other options, fan is Rogue's best AOE and it is sorely needed for a deck like this one.
Using Fan of Knivesis not easy to do. It is AOE, but it is not AOE like Flamestrikeor Twisting Netherbecause it has a very small window where it can be effective. One or two damage can be a lot (especially when paired with minions or other spells), but it is also easy for decks to climb above it. A single Mark of the Lotusor Power of the Wildcan instantly invalidate your damage potential, as can things like Southsea Captainand Murloc Warleader. You need to make reads when you have knives in hand and think about how your opponent can get around it. If you are against a token swarm build that does not have access to buffs you can wait a few turns, but if you ever think your opponent might get health next turn you need to pull the trigger.
Defender of Argus
As with the double Mistress of Mixturespackage, Defender of Argusis a key card in both stopping aggro and protecting yourself. I bring up this card because you only run one of it, making when and how you play it very important. Similar to your one drops, you cannot run this card out whenever you feel like it. Rather, it is important to put together a strong plan for the 2/3. There are two modes to defender, and each of them are quite strong. The most important is going to be for protection. Most games you are going to spend your time controlling the pace. That is strong, but it can also leave you vulnerable to burn of burst. Always think about your health and figure out the biggest bodies you can get the taunt on. Having two walls can stop a lot of decks, especially when facing weapons. Though your opponent may bash though, that extra time is invaluable.
The other mode of Defender of Argusis using it as a tempo swing. This mode is going to come up less than the defensive gameplan, but (as Zoo showed us so many times) the double buff while you're ahead can do wonders. In fact, sometimes it can just win on the spot. If you find yourself pressing hard or pushing through massive tempo you should not hesitate to slam this down on two big minions. That style not only helps you bring more damage, but it also gives you a way to get good trades and protect some of your vulnerable minions. It is also important to know that tempo does not always mean an aggressive tempo push. Taunting up things like Aya Blackpawcan also put your opponent into an awkward position.
Still one of my favorite cards of all time, Vilespine Slayeris a beastly midrange threat that gives you a ton of utility throughout all stages of the game. The card is very simply in practice, but setting it up is not going to be easy. Like Jade Shuriken, slayer is a card you want to get value from. The 3/4 body for five is extremely underwhelming, but the ability is insanely strong. Save your smaller cards as you move into the middle turns and do what it takes to get this going as soon as possible. It is often right to hold a one drop back to play the plant turn six, but the best way to get use from vilespine is with the coin on turn five. If you go second and you have a good opening you should do everything to get that play.
Understand the best time to use Vilespine Slayer. The flower is one of the only clean ways you can use to control the board and every deck is going to have something you want to take down. Against Paladin you want to blow up Tirion Fordringor Primordial Drake, when facing Shaman you want to focus on their swing totems and big golems, and against aggro you want to snipe aggressive bodies like Frothing Berserker. This is going to change each match, but it is always good to have a target in mind. That does not mean you have to only save the flower for one specific minion (you want to push tempo more than anything else) but it will give you a good idea of when you want to set up the 3/4.
These are the five decks I see the most while playing on the ladder.
If anything, Mage has gotten more popular over the past two weeks. I face this deck a ton, which means you need to be ready for Jaina when taking anything to the ladder these days. Discover is a strange deck because, while they have a few minions here and there, they operate much more like a burn-based combo deck than anything else. They do not care about pushing early damage so much as they care about simply staying alive until their finishers can come to town. The deck has a lot of plays, but most of them are simply distractions that drag things out until they can unleash a flurry of spells. For that reason, you need to bring the pressure in this one and do everything you can to force Mage into a tight corner.
It is a simple rule that if you let Mage get to the late game with their Ice Blockintact you are not going to be able to win. The class operates on the principle that they can ignore their opponent because they do not have to worry about dying. If you can get to their secret and build up bodies they will have to worry. That then takes them off of their tempo and gives you priority. Midrange decks always want to pace the game in their own way, but that is especially key against Jaina because of her damage potential. Never let your opponent get comfortable and always push bodies out in any way you can. Sometimes just playing a one drop and using Jade Shurikenon your opponent's face turn three is correct just to get them to react.
Pirate dipped for a quick second, but Garrosh's rum-loving band has jumped right back to one of the more popular builds around. As with past Jade Rogue builds, this is likely going to be your toughest matchup. Not only do you have to outlast their early push, but you also need to keep ahead of their gigantic weapons. Warrior is going to storm out of the gates and they will not stop until somebody's dead. Though you have some power, it is going to be hard to make them care about the board. This game is going to be a tricky balance between staying alive and getting in damage. One of the hardest things about beating Pirate Warrior is the fact that you simply cannot sit back and take out their minions. If you do that, you will die to their weapons. You need to get damage in against them and you need to be able to race faster than they can. Trade where you can to limit your opponent's power, but focus your energy on pushing ahead. Every damage counts here. Do not get lazy and do not focus too much on trading. Pirate's damage will outlast you if you let them.
Shaman continues to climb up in popularity. Token is relatively new to the scene, but it has a lot of power and quick burst that other decks do not. This is perhaps the only game where you want to sit back and take the role of a full control player. Aggression is important, but it is not going to do that much for you here. Your deck has the jade plan in addition to N'Zoth, the Corruptorwhile your opponent has small minions that lead to weak topdecks. That means you can outlast your opponent over the long game. Your whole goal is to grind your opponent out of cards as quickly as you possibly can and then overwhelm them with your bigger threats.
All current iterations of Shaman play to Bloodlust. That is strong, but it means they need a board to take advantage of their synergies and end the game. Once you take control of the board the only way you lose is by getting careless with your trades. Do not let two small minions live only to have your opponent slam down Flametongue Totemand take control back. This whole game is about gaining priority where you can find it, and once you get ahead you should give your opponent an opening. Trade as hard as you can and never let your opponent get anything to stick. This may make the game go longer, but it will cripple Shaman and leave them with a lot of dead plays.
I don't know about you guys, but I see Jade Druid everywhere. The slower midrange/combo/control deck has completely taken over for its aggressive counterpart and that is very good news for this deck. As hard as Aggro Druid is for Rogue (and it is quite hard) Jade Druid is much more vulnerable. Your opponent is going to spend most of their time ramping early on, which gives you a green light to take over the board. Once that happens you then want to rapidly move up your curve. Druid is going to start going to crazy around turn six, and you simply do not have the power to match a never-ending stream of jade cards and big finishers. To beat Druid you need to out tempo them. Simply move up your curve and push through damage. It may be tempting to trade with their smaller threats, but unless you want to specifically save a minion from removal you should completely ignore them. You want to put Druid into a position where they are doing their best to put up walls. That then keeps you in control of the trades and lets you blow them out with strong swing cards like Vilespine Slayer. Push from turn one onward and punish your opponent from taking time to set up. You need to have complete control by turn five.
It has gotten to the point where I am hesitant to call Paladin a midrange deck. Though they have all the pieces, they love pushing damage and ending games between six and eight. As a result, you want to be much on guard in this game than you would normally be against typical midrange lists. The murloc push is going to come early, and it can lock you out quickly. Mulligan hard for all of your early removal and one drops. Even two drops can be a bit too slow because of how well Paly builds on itself. Your goal is to get ahead of your opponent and use that to keep them off of their regular curve. This should force them onto the back foot and keep them reactive. Just do your best to keep a few sticky threats around to stop Equalityor Consecration.
The pacing of this one is going to be interesting. First and foremost, you need to handle murlocs. It is so easy for Paladin to gain priority from the fish that if you ever give them a chance to put a couple unanswered on the board you are never going to be able to climb back into the game. However, once you get ahead you need to leverage minions and get aggressive. Paladin does not do great job of board control during the middle stages of the game when they don't have the board. Most of their control derives from minions and without that they can lead to some awkward turns. Go wide on them and get as many big bodies as possible. Then, once they try to set up a few big walls to shut you down you can crush them with big swing turns.
You mulligan with this deck like you would any other Rogue build. Look for the cheap stuff and go hard into your opening curve. Once you have that, you can then start to get a little more creative as you get more mana. Backstab, Swashburglar, Mistress of Mixtures, Southsea Deckhandand Jade Swarmer are all your must keeps. Journey Belowis strong as a combo activator or with early minions, but it does not have enough of an impact to keep on its own. Bloodmage Thalnosand Kobold Geomancerare both good with spells against other board-focused decks.
Eviscerateis strong with early minions (especially if you have the coin) and Jade Shurikenis great with a good curve. Fan of Knivesshould always be kept against aggro, Mimic Podis great with the coin or a curve, and both Jade Spiritand Defender of Argusare good with the coin and a fast opening.
Is anyone else getting the chills? Knights is right around the corner, but that doesn't mean we can't have fun before then. The Un'goro meta has been one of the best we've had for some time (if not ever) and there are a lot of strange and unique decks going all the way up the ladder. If you want to take a break from what you know, this list is perfect for anyone who likes Rogue or wants to enjoy something different. I would highly recommend it. Until next week, may winter come soon.