This week, our resident decksmith Vincent Sarius takes a look at one of the most fun decks to play—and most irritating to come up against—the Miracle Rogue.
Hello again Hearthstoners, today we're taking an in-depth look at one of the oldest and most innovative decks in Hearthstone: the Miracle Rogue. Have you run into a Rogue that managed to draw its entire deck and kill you in a single turn while you sat furiously twiddling your thumbs? Congratulations, you've witnessed a Miracle, and it looks a little something like this.
That was pro player Amaz falling victim to the Mana Addict version of Miracle Rogue. But before we get to how it works, first some backstory. The Rogue class has undergone significant change since Hearthstone was in beta. When I started playing in September 2013, Rogue was the second strongest class in the game—just behind Druid, which was absolutely broken. Eventually this led to its Hero Power, and a number of its cards– Defias Ringleader , Edwin VanCleef and Headcrack —being hit with the nerfhammer.
Subsequently, Rogue entered a long period of stagnancy. The class was actually still very strong, but players tend to flee from a recently nerfed class, as we've seen recently with Hunter in the wake of the Unleash The Hounds nerf. However, the Miracle Rogue deck has always enjoyed at least some play due to its unique style, perceived complexity and overall effectiveness. While not common lower down the ladder due to the considerable cost, it has always been common at the Legendary level on both the EU and NA servers, thanks to notable exponents of the deck, such as Kolento and AtaK.
Miracle Rogue is also considered one the most viable decks in top level tournament play right now, as evidenced by the recent Deck Wars finale, in which most players had a Miracle variant, and the competition was ultimately won by Tempo Storm's Tidesoftime , who was running this list . So…
It's a combo-based deck, which is very light on minions, but if it's allowed to 'set-up' can unleash a devastating 30+ damage on your Hero in a single turn using cards like Leeroy Jenkins , Shadowstep , Cold Blood , Preparation , and Eviscerate . In most CCGs these decks are often called 'degenerative', since they lead to a very uninteractive style of play, where it doesn't matter much what you draw if your opponent is able to collect their combo pieces. For that reason, there's a suspicion Blizzard may end up nerfing the stats of the Gadgetzan Auctioneer —which is the 'engine' the deck uses to trigger the miraculous card draw—but for now Miracle Rogue remains the most devastating combo deck in the game.
How does it work?
The primary concern when building a combo-based deck is making sure you can generate enough damage in a single turn to kill your opponent without having previously chipped away at their health. Miracle Rogue, at its most brilliant/annoying, can do 30 damage as early as turn eight—using Leeroy, two Shadowsteps, two Cold Bloods, Preparation, and an Eviscerate. Enough to kill any hero without armor or some other form of protection like Ice Block .
The other key concern is being able to regularly draw the cards needed for the combo. The beauty of the Miracle Rogue combo is that it's modular—meaning you can scale up through different versions of it, with the damage ranging from 10 to 30, which enables the deck to adapt to situational circumstances in games. The reason it works relatively consistently is that the deck has a very effective card draw engine. In Hearthstone, the two engines that see (or saw) play are Starving Buzzard and Gadgetzan Auctioneer.
Gadgetzan Auctioneer is the more potent of the two, because rather than relying on summoning beats it allows any spell to be turned into an extra card draw. Given that a spell like Shiv already causes a card draw, the opportunity to cycle cheaply through your deck is obvious. Most of Rogue's spells are also cheap, like Deadly Poison, or even free, like Backstab. Used correctly, the Auctioneer enables the Rogue player to draw an insane amount of cards in a single turn, thereby collecting the cards for the big combo. As a byproduct, the cycling also often clears the board, as you'll be playing Saps and Backstabs as you go, again creating space for the lethal finisher.
Most games against Miracle Rogue, when they aren't draw-screwed, lead to a predictable sequence of events. On turn five, a Gadgetzan Auctioneer will be played, followed by a Preparation and then a Conceal . This in itself cycles two cards, but more importantly, the Auctioneer is hidden from anything except AoE splash damage, and now set up for the massive deck cycling on turn six.
The Rogue will then cycle as many cards as possible, doing sizeable amounts of damage to your hero or your board. On turn seven, they then either unleash a limited Leeroy combo for the kill, or continue stalling until turn eight, by which point you'll likely be out of life. Prior to turn five, the Rogue relies on cards like Earthen Ring Farseer , Loot Hoarder , and SI:7 Agent to prevent their opponent's side of the board from snowballing.
Another method of applying some early pressure is to play an early burst of cards to buff Edwin VanCleef, and then keep the board cleared as an alternate 'win condition' to the Leeroy Jenkins burst, although this is often seen as risky due to the ease most decks have hard removing a single exposed large minion. The main weaknesses of Miracle Rogue, though, is its vulnerability to early rushes from aggro decks like Zoo Warlock or the new Divine Favor -based Aggro Paladins . Other aggro decks, like Warrior and Mage, are often too slow to kill the Miracle Rogue by turn eight. Miracle Rogue also has a very limited amount of damage built in to the deck, so classes with high amounts of durability—like Warrior, Paladin, and Priest—can often do well. Control Warrior is one of the worst match-ups for Miracle Rogue.
Another major weakness is its difficulty bypassing Taunts, in particular when several are in play. Miracle Rogue only runs two Saps as its (pseudo) removals, which means when there are three Taunt minions on the board, the deck simply cannot kill you. Being able to bait out the Saps early by applying pressure, and then throwing down a large Taunt like Ancient of War , Sunwalker , or even a pair of Ancient Watchers with a Sunfury Protector , will generally shut the traditional Leeroy-based Miracle Rogues down. This is precisely why Handlock is such a nigh-on unwinnable match-up for Miracle Rogue—it can consistently toss down massive Taunts for low Mana costs.
The final weakness, is the turn five concealed Auctioneer. Certain classes have ways of dealing with the pesky bugger, even though he's stealthed. So long as there no other minions on the board, Hunters can use Deadly Shot , while Paladin has multiple ways of tackling it—the best being Wild Pyromancer played with Equality . Warlock also has the tools, but at a slightly higher six Mana cost, if he can play Bloodmage Thalnos and Hellfire . Destroying the Auctioneer usually puts an end to the Rogue's ambitions then and there.
Next page: Is Miracle Rogue likely to be nerfed, plus a recommended deck list with tips.
Will the Gadgetzan Auctioneer be nerfed?
Well, in our interview with Gaara from team TempoStorm, he thought it was likely. Blizzard certainly has form when it comes to nerfing cards which promote 'uninteractive' play styles. On the other hand, Miracle Rogue is such an exotic deck, that I think Blizzard will be reluctant to punish innovation and creativity. Or at the least, they should be. A card game where the only viable archetypes are Aggro and Control would become stale very fast.
Nope. It's come a long way from its origins, and is still mutating. Last month saw innovation from AtaK, who opted to cut the Leeroy Combo in favor of running Malygos and Sinister Strikes as his finisher of choice, thereby bypassing the vulnerability to Taunts. Malygos is often cited as a sub-par Legendary because it can't instantly effect the board when it's played—but because you can keep him safe with Conceal, and use expensive spells on the same turn with Prepartion, Malygos is a devastatingly powerful card.
AtaK also pioneered running Earthen Ring Farseers and Azure Drakes over the trusty Acolytes of Pain and Loot Hoarders on the basis that having some form of board presence is always likely to improve your odds. There's also been a resurgence of regular Leeroy-style Miracle Rogue's, but running the same basic package as AtaK with Earthen Rings and Azure Drakes. Generally most decks also ran both Edwin and Leeroy to assure they would have some form of win condition in the event of failing to draw an Auctioneer. You can see a typical list on the right hand side of this page, which was put together by Tidesoftime. (Read more about it here .)
Any tips on how I should play it?
I won't lie to you, this is a very complicated deck to play and it will take time to master. (Which is another reason it isn't widespread on the lower ranks of the ladder.) It requires you to make a lot of quick decisions, often right up to the timer, in order to deal maximum damage. Generally, you want to play your Edwin VanCleef early to both limit his exposure to hard removal and put your opponent on a fast 'clock'. However, don't invest too many cards buffing him in this—you don't want to use two Shadowsteps to get a huge VanCleef, only to have him eat a Deadly Shot.
What should I keep in my opening hand?
Mulligan aggressively for Deadly Poisons, Backstabs, Loot Hoarders, and Auctioneers. Auctioneer should always be kept in your opening hand, and in fact, I tend to aggressively mulligan for him in most match-ups—even throwing back Deadly Poisons if I'm not against an aggressive class like Warlock, Hunter or Mage.
Wow, this deck is expensive!
Yes, Miracle Rogue isn't cheap, and it becomes a lot less effective if you try to use budget replacements. However, you can sub out Edwin VanCleef for a Mana Addict (you should run two Conceals in this case), while Bloodmage Thalnos can be replaced by a Kobold Geomancer . And although it will greatly impact the deck's effectiveness, Leeroy can be replaced by Arcane Golem . The other Rares and Epics in the deck are irreplaceable.
I hope you enjoyed reading about the wondrous Miracle Rogue. Remember, while copying decklists in their entirety can certainly win you games, it's often better to adjust the deck to common themes or elements in the current metagame. For example, right now I'd say most decks should be running some form of weapon removal as Shaman is making a strong comeback due to the popularity of Handlock and the utter absence of Hunter. As always, this is Vincent Sarius, and the pleasure was mine!