The Comprehensive Showdown in the Badlands Preview


Data Reaper Report - Rogue

Blackrock Co. Shovel

A 1-mana weapon that excavates once it breaks. Since this is a Rogue weapon, you can break it early if you really want to, thanks to your hero power’s override. If you equip it on turn 1 and attack with it every turn, you expend your charges on turn 3.

This is a basic weapon for early board control that generates a high-quality card at the end. A Rogue deck focused on excavation won’t mind it.

Score: 3

Stick Up

A 1-mana discover spell with a very narrow pool of cards, all of which are powerful when they’ve entered your hand on the turn you played them. Stick Up is basically a self-activator for Quickdraw cards.

The caveat is that Stick Up is not a good card to play on turn 1, or generally too early in the game. You need to play it with mana left over, so you can play the discovered card on the same turn and benefit from Quickdraw. The most expensive Quickdraw card from another class costs 3 mana, so a turn 3-4 Stick Up should be able to find a strong play.

What we particularly like about Stick Up is that it covers some of Rogue’s weaknesses. Quickdraw cards from other classes can offer removal, AOE, and healing. The latter two are generally absent from Rogue’s toolkit, so we think Stick Up is deceptively strong and useful for the Rogue class, even in decks that don’t focus on the Thief theme.

We have a strong suspicion that it will be ubiquitous and a core card in every Rogue deck.

Score: 4

Triple Sevens

This is a massive card draw engine. Drawing 7 cards for 7 mana seems like a very good deal, especially when the card can handle a big threat at the same time. Through every objective lens, Triple Sevens is a significantly discounted package of value. The availability of Swiftscale Trickster makes it even more enticing.

The problem is that there’s diminishing returns to how much draw you can have, especially when Rogue is blessed with other forms of card draw and card generation that are very powerful. The excavate package is one that simply cannot fit alongside Triple Seven, as it generates too many cards. Triple Seven is just going to end up milling us.

Triple Sevens’ best fit is in a deck with minimal generation. If you remember Myra’s Unstable Element, we think the cards are quite similar in what they encourage. They fit into a deck with a lot of burn. Rogue needs a lot of cheap damage-dealing cards that it can fling at the opponent’s face relentlessly, before taking a turn to reload.

Does Rogue have the damage-dealing support shell that can make Triple Seven successful? Surprisingly, Rogue currently has a low amount of damage. Its weapons aren’t strong, forcing it to recently try to leverage its hero powered dagger to create a weapon deck. Its over the top burst is limited. There’s no Sinister Strike in Standard, just Eviscerate.

Our guess is that Triple Sevens may be hard to use over the next couple of months. If Rogue gets more damage in the future, then it is more likely to become an influential card.

Score: 2

Bounty Wrangler

A basic looking card with possibly significant implications on the class, as generating coins could become very valuable this expansion. If you combo Bounty Wrangler, or play it while its quickdraw is active, you get a coin. Note that you cannot get two coins from a single Wrangler play. The combo and quickdraw do not stack. To get two coins from Wrangler, you must bounce it.

Ironically, Wrangler is a weaker coin generator for Rogue than a neutral minion in this set, the 2-mana Greedy Partner. It might be slightly conditional, but it’s much stronger with Shadowstep. Bouncing Wrangler is a bit awkward, so you’ll likely be doing less of that. The good news is that it’s entirely proactive, independent of anything that your opponent is doing. You’ll be happy to get all the unconditional coins you can.

Score: 3

Shell Game

Shell Game is another Thief-esque generator, but one that’s quite different from similar effects of the past since it generates non-legendary cards of specific rarities. Generating three class cards for three mana is okay, but it is entirely random. They can be any type of card (spell/minion/weapon/location).

We’re long past the point in history when Rogue could generate random garbage and win Hearthstone games with any consistency. Shell Game isn’t just random garbage, it’s random garbage with extreme variance. The cards generated could be anything, so there is no way to reliably leverage them other than spending mana on them and then play Tess Greymane.

Recent successful Thief Rogue cards are ones that carry a discover effect, so you can choose the best cards for the situation. Alternatively, they generate cards from a relatively narrow pool, which you can plan for and support with appropriate synergy, such as Jackpot and Trickster.

Thief Rogue is currently an atrociously bad archetype. Shell Game is not the kind of card that can bring it back.

Score: 1

Antique Flinger

This 4-drop is a secondary payoff for excavation, one that fits the Rogue class very well with its assassination flavor. A 4-mana 5/4 that destroys a minion can provide a very big swing to the board, both eliminating a big threat and developing a high attack body that represents immediate counter pressure. This card is much stronger than Vilespine Slayer, which used to be a staple card in Rogue decks of the past, though might be outdated for modern Hearthstone at its cost and conditionality.

A Rogue deck focused on excavation is likely to use Shadowstep, possibly Breakdance too. Flinger is a good target for those bouncers. Rogue’s ability to excavate is stronger and faster than any other class, so Flinger’s condition for activation is trivial.

This might be the strongest single target removal card in the format.

Score: 4

Dart Throw

Dart Throw deals 2 damage twice to random enemy minions, getting a bonus coin if both darts hit the same target. Ideally, the opponent has a single minion in play, so you can guarantee the desirable outcome. If not, you may want to make trades or utilize other removal to leave up a single enemy minion for Dart Throw.

Without getting a coin, this card is a bit weak, as it’s a Fel Barrage that cannot go face and isn’t useful unless your opponent has given you a target for it. Rogue does have a toolkit that’s very adept at isolating minions for Dart Throw. It’s also important to remember that early in the game, it’s unlikely that the opponent has developed multiple bodies, so Dart Throw can often be a clean response to a standard turn 2. In addition, the coin prize is quite valuable due to several win conditions at the class’ disposal.

Admittedly, this is possibly the weakest coin generator out there and might not make the cut if Miracle Rogue is focused on a Draka/Graveyard win condition. If Wishing Well ends up being a successful win condition, this card is more likely to be featured, as Wishing Well is more coin intensive.

Score: 2

Wishing Well

Wishing Well is one of the most unique and flavorful designs of the expansion. A card that has already captured the hearts of many players. This 5-mana minion is no threat by itself, but if you play it on turn 5 and cast a coin, you generate a random legendary minion from another class, with its cost set to 1 mana. You can throw multiple coins into the Wishing Well and always have the mana to play these legendary minions on the same turn, should you choose to.

Wishing Well’s legendary pool is identical to the one available from The Countess’ invitations. The generation is entirely random, so it’s less powerful than the more reliable discover effect in the Countess’ invitations. There are quite a few class legendary minions that aren’t very strong to get from the Well. But Wishing Well is cheaper, isn’t a legendary, doesn’t require a big deckbuilding restriction, and can make an impact earlier in the game.

Rogue can generate a lot of coins to fuel Wishing Well. You’ve got Bounty Wrangler, Dart Throw, and Greedy Partner. The neutral 2-drop is the strongest coin source, as it can generate more coins for no additional mana cost thanks to Shadowstep.

The big upside of Wishing Well is its sustained board pressure, swing potential and Tess Greymane. If you manage to execute a good Wishing Well turn but your opponent found an answer to it, you can resummon the legendary minions from the Well with Tess Greymane, which you can further bounce. That does sound quite neat.

Will players get their wish of a viable Well deck? It’s very difficult to say. We are a bit wary of Necrolord Draka being brought back by the coin package and offering a more ruthless win condition that circumvents mass removal. There’s a danger that, at least for the next 4 months, Wishing Well gets outclassed by Miracle Rogue’s established win conditions from Castle Nathria, even though they have been nerfed since.

But we’ll vote with our heart, not our mind.

Score: 4

Velarok Windblade

Velarok is a completely useless 3 mana 3/3 at his baseline. He literally does nothing. But if you play three cards from other classes while it’s in hand, he turns into his true form: An absolutely cracked 3-mana charge minion with 3/6 stats, alongside a discover ability with a heavy discount equal to Velarok’s cost. The true form is good, confirmed.

The plan is to find Velarok, activate it and then replay it using bouncers to charge at the opponent’s face while reloading your hand with discounted cards. The main question, how realistic is this plan?

Once again, we call Queen Azshara over to make a good comparison, as both are activated somewhat similarly. What’s clear is that activating Velarok is far more difficult. You must build your deck around a sizeable Thief package, rather than just run spells. A couple of Wishing Wells going off are not reliable enablers of Velarok over the course of a full game.

But even if we dedicate our deck to Velarok, is he even that big of a carry? While Velarok’s true form is a very strong card, it’s far from being a real win condition. For all the work to activate him, he’s not a big, standalone danger to the opponent. Considering how bad Thief Rogue currently is, and how little support it’s getting (Shell Game?), it’s hard to see Velarok becoming the difference maker.

Unless a surprisingly small package of cards is enough to make him function adequately in a Wishing Well deck, Velarok looks completely unplayable.

Score: 1

Drilly the Kid

The most excavating excavator that has ever excavated. Drilly the Kid boasts the highest ceiling out of all Excavate cards, capable of excavating numerous times in a single play, sometimes generating a Tier 4 treasure from scratch. Drilly makes Rogue’s Tier 4 treasure much easier to find compared to other classes.

To simplify Drilly’s potential, it has a baseline 2 Excavate count on its battlecry and deathrattle. Those occur as long you play Drilly and it dies. But it can proc a third time on a Quickdraw. Remember that Quickdraw is active if Drilly is bounced back to your hand and replayed on the same turn. Drilly is also a mech, so it can be tutored by Pit Stop, then played on the same turn, activating its Quickdraw.

For example, a turn 6 Preparation/Pit Stop/Drilly/Shadowstep/Drilly generates a total 5 treasures after Drilly dies. That’s a crazy excavation count that accelerates you to the late game, while stuffing your hand with many high-quality cards. Another way to leverage Drilly is with Scourge Illusionist, which adds a 0 mana 4/4 copy of Drilly to your hand after it dies.

Drilly establishes Rogue as the best excavating class. Nobody’s going to do it better than Rogue. Fortunately for other classes, Rogue’s Tier 4 treasure was balanced around it.

Score: 4

The Azerite Scorpion

Rogue’s Tier 4 treasure is the only one that carries an additional bonus for excavating 8 times, accommodating Rogue’s inclination to excavate more frequently than other classes. The Azerite Scorpion generates four random spells from any class, giving it a strong Thief Rogue flavor, but if you’ve excavated 8 times, these spells cost no mana!

It’s safe to say that Azerite Scorpion’s baseline iteration is the weakest treasure out of all classes. Generating random spells, even if it’s a significant number of them, is nothing special. Beyond its stats as 4 mana 5/5, The Azerite Scorpion has no impact on the board.

But an Azerite Scorpion, after meeting its condition of excavating 8 times, is very different. With the spells costing no mana, they can make an immediate impact on the game. You can think of Scorpion as a Prison of Yogg-Saron with complete player agency and control. Attach that on a 4 mana 5/5 body, and you’ve got a threat.

You probably shouldn’t play Scorpion after you first generate it. It’s worth keeping in hand until you’ve excavated 8 times, which Rogue can certainly do quite consistently, and only then start playing the two Scorpions you’ve created, generating a minimum of 8 0-cost spells.

The ability to bounce the Scorpion also exists, as the card is a strong target for both Shadowstep and Breakdance. At this point, you can generate so many spells that can be played for free, that your opponent is likely to crumble under the pressure.

The game plan is admittedly slow, but it provides serious late game inevitability. The opponent cannot let the Rogue excavate forever, or they die.

Score: 4

Final Thoughts

Showdown in the Badlands Set Rank: 5th

Overall Power Ranking:  2nd

Rogue’s Badlands set is very exciting, introducing several new possibilities to the class, while not neglecting to revive old ones. It feels like Rogue is going back to its roots.

Rogue’s excavating prowess is at the center. No class is going to excavate at the pace of Rogue thanks to Drilly the Kid and Shadowstep synergizing with Kobold Miner. While some will scoff at its Tier 4 treasure essentially becoming a delayed prize, it’s important to remember that a prize is generated every time you excavate. The more you excavate, the more quality cards you find that can help you win the game.

But let’s also respect The Azerite Scorpion. This Tier 4 treasure can certainly finish off opponents at its second form, while it’s very likely that Rogue will be able to play multiple Scorpions during a long game.

While excavating seems to fit a longer game, Miracle Rogue is getting some new toys that could help end games faster. The coin package of this set looks quite promising, with a couple of win conditions looking to compete. You’ve got the older, Draka/Graveyard pairing that can become very explosive thanks to coin generation. You also have the newly introduced Wishing Well, the set’s primary coin target, which can be complemented by Tess Greymane. We’ll be rooting for Wishing Well here.

Another direction for Rogue comes from the neutral set. If we had to bet on which class can turn the Ogre-Gang into a competitive package, it’d be Rogue. The potential repeated resurrection of a board full of Windfury Ogres sounds quite intimidating.

But let’s not forget Mech Rogue, which had already benefitted from the early released legendary card of the expansion, Thunderbringer. Mech Rogue is currently doing well on ladder, but it’s hard to see how it can further improve with the new set. It’ll likely have to fight to stay relevant, both in terms of increasing power from the competition, and maintaining interest. After all, there will be many exciting and new things to try in the class.

It’s hard to see so many promising directions falling flat. Rogue should make some serious noise early on. It’ll be the sound of digging.

1 Comment

  1. The problem with the DK rune system is less that it’s “too restrictive” and more that there is not enough incentive to run decks that aren’t mono-rune. This is less of a problem with Frost-Unholy since there is some support for deathrattle decks there, but there is no reason at all to run a Blood-Frost deck, and the only Unholy-Blood archetype that currently exists (Handbuff) isn’t interested in running Maw and Paw or A Fistful of Corpses. It’s true these two cards don’t really make sense in their current iteration but a better solution would be to design them to also work in a potential Blood-Unholy archetype rather than just knocking off an Unholy rune and calling it a day.

    The way the rune system should ideally work is that the more general, building-block type cards should have one or no rune. The more runes a card has, the more powerful and specialized it should be. However, two-rune cards should still be designed to work in multiple archetypes. With that in mind, Reska, the Pit Boss is a good example of a well-designed two rune card since it synergizes both with the corpse-heavy Rainbow DK and the UUF Deathrattle DK. If neither of those archetypes pan out and they “buff” Reska by removing a Frost rune I’ll be pretty disappointed, since that’ll create even less incentive for players to try out interesting rune combinations.

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