Imagine, a quiet, peaceful day spent in any of the scenic locales in World of Warcraft. It’s been a hard day. You’ve done work. You got those levels, be proud. Maybe now, it’s time for a nice, relaxing trip through a tranquil meadow. In this meadow, herbs wait to be picked. However, they are not alone. Out there, in the middle of nowhere, an ancient terror as as old as Vanilla Warcraft is waiting. Out there, Rogues (or Rogs if you’re in the Barrens) are waiting to stab at you until you finally perish. These leather wearing assassins are absolute menaces when striking from the shadows. Hearthstone however is not played from the shadows. How will these masters of subterfuge fare when fighting their foes in plain sight? This week, we aim to theorize on just how that’ll play out.
The Rogue deck is represented by .. Valeera Sanguinar .. a character of negligible importance, tied to Stormwind’s King Variann Wrynn. We discussed it on the inaugural episode of the HearthPro podcast this week, but it’s worth mentioning again. There were a lot better candidates to represent the Rogue deck, but for some reason, Blizzard went with Valeera. No worries though, despite her largely irrelevant storyline, she looks like a badass, and she’s got the skills to match. Let’s talk Rogue spells and abilities.
The Rogue deck features a unique combo mechanic, wherein Valeera is rewarded for playing multiple cards in one turn. Combo effects on cards proc assuming that another card has been played prior to that card on the same turn. It’s an interesting mechanic that has the potential to reward Rogues crafty enough to pick their battles intelligently.
Thus far, we’ve discussed all but one Hero power in our previews. We’ve seen the wide array of abilities, ranging from summoning weak minions to bolstering defenses, to even dealing set amounts of direct damage. It’s no secret that some powers are stronger than others. I’m of the mind that Dagger Mastery falls somewhere in the middle. For two energy, Valeera can summon and equip a 1/2 dagger, or, assuming she has another weapon out, she can give it an extra +1 to its attack rating.
Yes, this ability does damage and ensures that Valeera will never truly be without options, assuming all of her minions are slain. However, the damage she deals to minions will be minimal and will subject her to return fire, making it a lot less desirable than Jaina Proudmoore’s Fireblast, or Anduin Wrynn’s Mind Spike. She’ll also have to carve through minions with taunt, something casters won’t need to worry about. All that said, it’s two turns of one damage for two energy, and that’s fairly mana efficient, as compared to the aforementioned spells. More limitations, better mana cost. That’s reasonable.
The second part of Dagger Mastery, simply adding one damage to an existing weapon for the turn is a nice fallback that ensures that her hero power will never be truly useless. Again, I’d consider it middle of the pack, but it’s a lot better than summoning 1/1 minions. Uther reminds us that it could always be worse.
This epic zero mana card reduces the cost of your next spell by two. More importantly, it can be played free of charge and used to activate the combo mechanic. Preparation‘s going to be a good spell to run on turns where you’re looking to get a lot done, but it will really shine when it comes time to play a combo minion like the legendary Edwin VanCleef, who receives +2/+2 for every card played on the turn.
Shadowstep is an awesome card that I feel really sums up what the Rogue deck is about, that being crazy shenanigans. This no cost utility spell has a couple of different uses, aside from just activating a combo card. If a minion you’re particularly fond of is low on health and needs a breather, put it back on your bench and bring it back out later to fight again. This will also be amazing to chain with stealth minions who have come out of hiding, in order to give them back their shadowy edge.
The other use for Shadowstep is recycling battlecry abilities. I won’t go into it too much here as I wrote an entire article on it some time ago, but imagine throwing down cards that deal direct damage, destroy weapons, et cetera upon entry more than once. It could be incredibly powerful with the right minions.
Finally, some damage. Even better, Backstab is FREE damage. No cost, two damage to a target minion. Great card to deal with early game annoyances.
This card is a great trade, up to four damage when comboed for one energy. Cold Blood shines even more when coupled with a stealth minion who can get through opposing minions with taunt. Another cheap card in the Rogue arsenal. It’s absolutely a recurring theme.
And we finally arrive at a card that’s a bit too circumstantial to be run in all situations. Stealth is a great mechanic, and again, the low cost here makes this great combo fodder, but if you’re already running a lot of minions that feature stealth, alongside cards like Shadowstep and Vanish, which should allow you to recycle the stealth mechanic, consider maybe opting out here, or at the very least making sure you have enough minions to feel good about more spells. Conceal‘s a good card, you just need to be sure it’s going to benefit you in your particular Rogue deck.
If it does, there are a bunch of generic minions that do not feature stealth who would really benefit from it. We’ll talk more about those on Thursday though.
Again, this card is a great trade. All of one mana for a point of all purpose damage and a card. The damage is useful, but the Rogue deck will burn through spells come combo time, making the card draw on Shiv priceless.
Deadly Poison + Blade Flurry
The Rogue deck features three weapons, not including the Fischer Price dagger awarded by the Dagger Mastery hero power. Outside of an arena draft deck, I’m not a fan of any of them, aside from Perdition’s Blade. That weapon functions as a low damage option and a potential two damage nuke when comboed, making it worth looking at. Deadly Poison requires a weapon to be used, and while it is possible to conjure one with Dagger Mastery, I don’t feel like it does enough to warrant running it, unless of course you’re just starting out and have no other cards. The Rogue features a surprisingly high number of spells for a melee class, so you’ll want to be sure you’ve got your minions covered before adding other, more superfluous abilities.
Blade Flurry on the other hand is just a good card for clearing the board early on. Rogues can have some issues when it comes to surviving horrible hordes of low health minions in the early going, and Blade Flurry‘s a great answer, even if you elect to run no weapons. Summoning your Dagger Mastery blade will at least allow you the ability to deal one damage across the board with the two mana spell, and if you choose to give yourself the +1 with the other function of the hero power, two damage spread across the board is not bad at all. Short answer? Deadly Poison questionable, Blade Flurry good!
For one mana, Sinister Strike does three damage to the enemy hero? Where do I sign!?
Talk about card recycling, Headcrack is awesome. The spell does two damage for two mana and, if comboed, comes back to your hand on the next turn. Given the low cost of most of the spell cards in the set, there’s a good chance you could see this card coming back four, even five times, possibly more. Valeera will need to nickel and dime her opponent, and this card is basically a sock full of quarters if used to its full potential.
What a great name for a Rogue card. This spell will apparently allow Valeera to convince an opposing minion to go crazy on the minions standing next to it, dealing its attack damage to up to two minions. Betrayal will be a great card at most points in the game, as long as the opponent has multiple minions on the board.
Nothing crazy here, more cheap damage that can be comboed to do more damage. Eviscerate is, unsurprisingly, core in the Rogue deck.
Alright, now here’s an interesting card. Sap is effectively Unsummon from Magic the Gathering, but more expensive at two mana, and not an instant cast, because obviously that’s not a thing in Hearthstone. Still, I like the spell for a couple of a reasons, the most obvious being, if you want to hit the opposing hero and some jerk minion with taunt is in your way, just put him back in your opponent’s hand and proceed to maim whoever you’re playing against.
The secondary perk to this spell is playing against Warlocks, where a number of minions have incredibly prohibitive costs. If Gul’dan drops some giant demon that does a bunch of damage to him in the process, just put it back in his hand, smile impishly and dare him to pay the price again. The other side of the coin though is, what if the thing you remove has a strong battlecry ability? Sap is a good card, but it needs to be used correctly in order to be worthwhile in your deck. Don’t just use it as combo fodder unless you’re positive it will win you the match in short order.
Fan of Knives
I’m actually not entirely sold on Fan of Knives here. It’s a three mana card, and in the Rogue deck, that’s sort of high. It also does only one damage, albeit to all opposing minions, along with awarding a single card. It feels like Shiv‘s less awesome cousin. It’ll be worth tinkering around with in the beta, but my gut tells me I’d want this card to cost two mana, instead of three. Still, it’s not the end of the world if you run it. It’s damage and card draw, and there’s always a need for both of those things.
Woah, woah. Five mana? In my Rogue deck? Apparently it does happen. Despite the high cost, I like Assassinate. It’s a non-negotiable, ‘you die now’ card. Moreover, it’s high cost makes it plain that this card is meant to take out something larger and more irritating. The deck features enough smaller spells to deal with annoying aggro creatures, totems, hunter pets and the like. Assassinate is meant to take something big out in the mid to late game, allowing you to either survive or flesh out your own offensive. I don’t think you’d want to see it in your opening hand necessarily, but this card will be instrumental.
Vanish, because you despise Warlocks. All jokes aside, this is another circumstantial card. You have to figure out why your deck would want to reset the board, unless you’re planning to use this card to simply buy yourself a turn against minion heavy decks. If that’s the case, I don’t like it. It’s unlikely that one turn will buy you a win. However, using this card because your deck is built around battlecry abilities is not a bad idea at at all, and I fully endorse it.
Ahhh, sweet card draw. It’ll cost you, though. The hefty seven mana price tag makes this easily the most expensive card in the core Rogue deck, but if you can swing it, it’ll be a great reload card. The Rogue deck will absolutely bleed cheap cards, and that can quickly result in not having a hand. If Sprint is an option on turn seven, you’ll be in a better spot with a fresh bag of annoying tricks to use on your (hopefully) hapless opponent.
If after reading over all of this the Rogue deck is still not totally clear, do not fret. Come Thursday, we’ll be talking minions and what to do when it comes time to throwdown.
Have a question about Hearthstone or just want to talk deck ideas? Drop me a line at @RobertAWing on Twitter, or at ZenStyle@BlizzPro.com. Also, be sure to check out the HearthPro Podcast, the official Hearthstone Podcast of BlizzPro, talking blue posts, deck strategies, card lore and much more.