Our Tempo Rogue deck list guide goes through the ins-and-outs of this popular Rogue build for the Rise of Shadows expansion! This guide will teach you how to mulligan, pilot, and substitute cards for this archetype!
Introduction to Tempo Rogue
Rogue class and Tempo cards went hand in hand ever since the game was created, so it’s no surprising that a variant of Rogue that wants to capitalize on them was one of the most popular Rogue decks throughout the history of Hearthstone. Even late in Rastakhan’s Rumble, while not as dominating as it is now, Tempo Rogue was already making a good show.
Given that a lot of the strongest cards from this archetype are from Basic and Classic sets, and that it got a few new, great tools in Rise of Shadows, Tempo Rogue is now one of the strongest meta decks at any rank. Many decks have attempted to counter it, but none managed to do it so far – even the “worst” matchups for the deck are around 40/60, which is not something a skilled Rogue player can’t overcome.
Keep in mind that players still weren’t able to figure out the best version. One of the hottest discussions is whether Heistbaron Togwaggle belongs in this deck. In my opinion it does, but we’ve seen many successful builds that don’t run it. Actually, most of the Legendaries played here are optional (even though some of them are great fits), meaning that the deck can be built on a very low budget if necessary.
Tempo Rogue Deck List
Check out alternative versions of this deck on our Tempo Rogue archetype page!
Tempo Rogue Mulligan Strategy & Guide
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Backstab – One of the best cards against faster decks, you can remove an early threat without losing any tempo, which is exactly what you want to do.
- Southsea Deckhand – While it’s mostly played for the mid/late game, it’s the only 1-drop in your deck, and you really want to have some board presence vs Aggro, so despite being only a 2/1, you still want to keep it.
- Hench-Clan Thug – Great 3-drop, especially vs Aggro, since they often don’t have a great way to remove a 4/4 on T3. And if they don’t, it can grow and snowball the game. Usually gets you 2 for 1 vs Aggro.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Preparation – Keep with Raiding Party – it’s an amazing combo that gives you +1 card advantage (and access to more options) for 0 mana. Alternatively, you can keep Prep with Eviscerate IF you have some Combo minions too that you want to activate for 0 mana.
- EVIL Miscreant / SI:7 Agent / Edwin VanCleef – Your 3-drop combo cards. They’re all amazing vs Aggro, but at the same time, they’re nearly useless if you don’t activate their combos. That’s why keep them only with Coin OR with another way to activate them, such as Backstab or Prep + spell. If you go first AND you have none of those, I’d throw them away, since they are too slow if you don’t get it. Also, keep as many as you can activate. E.g. if you’re on Coin and you don’t have another activator, you can keep 1, but if you’re on Coin and you have Backstab too, you can keep 2.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Hench-Clan Thug – Great, snowbally 3-drop – you will always dagger up on Turn 2, which means that you can turn it into a 4/4 on T3 and if your opponent can’t answer, snowball it further.
- EVIL Miscreant – While too slow to keep by itself vs Aggro, it’s not the case vs Control. Of course, you won’t drop it as a 1/5 when going first, but the Lackeys are amazing, and it can also be used to activate an early Heistbaron Togwaggle.
- Raiding Party – Obviously, you always prefer to keep with with Prep, but against slow decks you can even keep it by itself. The card is just so powerful, and you should find a way to activate it somehow.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- Preparation – 100% keep with Raiding Party, you CAN also keep it with Eviscerate if you have Edwin in your hand and want to bank on winning by making him big (it’s a risky play, but it often pays off).
- Edwin VanCleef – Early big Edwin is one of the potential ways to win slow matchups, but I don’t recommend going all in. You want to keep him if you have a cheap hand, especially one with Prep + a spell. For example, T2 Coin + Prep + Raiding Party + Edwin is a great play, as you don’t lose a card advantage AND get an early 8/8 on the board. Look for hands like that, but just making him a 6/6 is good enough (and sometimes even a 4/4 is okay).
Tempo Rogue Play Strategy
VS Aggro Decks
Rogue was never known as a great anti-Aggro class. Without proper AoEs or defensive tools, and given the fact that it often takes lots of early damage from stabbing minions with Hero Power, being rushed in the mid game by Aggro is quite common. At the same time, however, between the fact that the power level of current Aggro decks is quite low, and that Rogue has some nice tempo tools to work with, most of the Aggro matchups are quite close to 50/50.
The basic idea is to outtempo them in the early game, take the board control, and then capitalize on that. We don’t have any “face” or “burn” decks in the current meta, we don’t have any Pirate Warriors or oldschool Tempo Mages, which means that for the most part, Aggro decks rely on board presence to do anything. If you can take that away from them, you should be in a good spot. Being ahead on the board means that YOU can dictate trades and YOU can pick which minions you want to remove in what way. If you’re behind, you become more desperate and you use most of your resources to stay alive.
Which is why the mulligan and first few turns are absolutely crucial. You can’t be too greedy with your mulligan – it might be tempting to keep Raiding Party without Prep (for example) since it’s a great card, but it’s just too slow. Keep cheap cards and Combo cards that you CAN activate (with Coin, Backstab etc.) Then, during the first few turns, you have to play fast. Try to gain the early game board control and stick a minion or two. Thanks to that, you will be able to pick your trades and only do the good ones. Use your Hero Power. Don’t be afraid to take damage – poke those minions every time you can. Like I’ve said, most of the Aggro decks right now rely on the board control, so taking some damage to establish it is not a big deal. You can easily go down to 15 or so as long as you won’t take much more damage later. The only exception are Rogue mirrors – Rogue decks can burst you down heavily with Waggle Picks, Leeroy Jenkins etc.
That said, you don’t wan to play the control role forever. You do it in early game so you can start going face in the mid game. Because this deck can do some really crazy damage. Ideally, you want to start going face when you can set up quick (most likely 2 turns) lethal without the fear of dying. Even if you’re low on health, you want to start going face – just be a little bit more careful (e.g. use minions to trade instead of weapon). Zilliax turn is a good moment to start turning the game around. If you can drop Zilliax and kill something + put a Taunt on the field (with a Lifesteal, so you most likely won’t die even if they get through it), you can start using the rest of your minions push. Pushing damage is especially good vs other Rogue decks and Warlocks. In case of Rogue, they also don’t have many defensive tools, so most of the damage will stick, and if you do it, they might start playing much more defensively with their weapon (stop using it to get board control). As for the Warlocks, they can trade life for value directly, so the lower they are, the less likely is that they will still Life Tap. Which in turn means that they will get less resources, and probably lose the game because of that.
Alternatively, if you have Heistbaron Togwaggle, then you can pretty much bank on winning that way. Most of the time, Zarog's Crown is the best of four treasures. While you can low-roll, you should get at least a 5/5 or 6/6 on average, and summoning that much stats for just 3 mana is too much tempo for an Aggro deck to handle. And if you high roll something that gives you immediate tempo (e.g. Grommash Hellscream or Taunt (e.g. Tirion Fordring) then there’s really no chance that you lose.
VS Control Decks
Control matchups are actually more straightforward than Aggro, especially in the early game. Your basic strategy is to kill them before the late game, where they can usually stabilize. But Tempo Rogue is not a rush deck – you won’t have nearly enough early game pressure as decks like Murloc Shaman or Zoo Warlock. Most of your power comes from the mid game – Turns 3-6 are when your deck is at its strongest, so use that. You want to keep 2-3 minions on the board all the time and use them to push damage. That’s because you don’t want to commit too much into AoE – dropping your entire hand into e.g. Brawl is one of the best ways to lose the match.
There are lots of little ways to snowball and win the game. First opportunity comes as early as Turn 3 with Hench-Clan Thug. While the card doesn’t work too well with Waggle Pick, the sheer power of this 3-drop still makes it a solid choice. It basically starts off as a 4/4 and grows if your opponent can’t kill it. Talking about big minions – another way to snatch a quick win is Edwin VanCleef. Some of my easiest games were dropping an 8/ VanCleef on T2-T3 and then just winning the game on top of it. It should be quite easy to do with Coin, and if you can make a huge VanCleef, you most likely should. However, don’t overdo it if you think that your opponent might have an answer. For example, if you play vs Priest and they might have either Shadow Word: Death or Silence, then going for a 4/4 or 6/6 might be enough. On the other hand, a big VanCleef is amazing vs Warrior – most of the builds don’t run Silence or Execute, and that early in the game they don’t have enough armor to Shield Slam it. Of course, it might happen that you play vs someone who decided to tech Execute, but overall, a huge VanCleef is one of the best ways to win vs Warrior.
Another snowball card is obviously Heistbaron Togwaggle. Just like against Aggro, Zarog's Crown is usually the best one, as its the highest tempo. You should generally avoid Wondrous Wand, because cards in your deck are cheap anyway, so it “just” draws 3. Tolin's Goblet is a roll – if your hand is nearly empty and you get a solid card (e.g. Eviscerate, or some good minion), then you basically won the game. But if you roll a hand full of Backstab, Preparation or Raiding Party, or even worse, multiple Myra's Unstable Elements, then you just wasted a card. Golden Kobold can work in some scenarios. If you have a few low value cards in your hand, then it’ s a great pick. You can drop a 3 mana 6/6, which is great tempo, and then turn that Backstab, Deadly Poison and Southsea Deckhand into random Legends. While random Legends aren’t spectacular, if your hand was pretty bad, you’re basically guaranteed to get a better one.
The deck packs quite a lot of damage even when you have no board. That’s one of its main advantages – Control decks will try to get rid of your board all the time, but stopping damage from hand is much harder. One of the best finishers is Pick + Leeroy. Have Waggle Pick at 1 durability with no board, drop Leeroy, attack with him, attack with weapon, drop him again. 16 damage in total. If your previous turn was, for example, Waggle Pick + hit face + Eviscerate face for extra 8 damage, you’ve just dealt 24 damage over 2 turns like it was nothing. Captain Greenskin, while not immediately like Leeroy, also adds lots of damage. Using him on a 4/1 pick adds 6 damage to the weapon. Throw in some extra Deadly Poison, SI:7 Agent, Southsea Deckhand, and you can basically kill your opponent without ever sticking a minion. Of course, it’s not the most optimal way to do it, just something to have in mind.
And if all else fails, you always have Myra's Unstable Element. Well, to be honest, it doesn’t have to all fail – you generally use it in two scenarios. First – when you run out of steam. Even if it’s mid game, if your hand gets empty, using it can win you the game. Yes, you start taking fatigue damage, but it doesn’t matter against Control. You still have like 5-6 turns to kill them, which should be enough to go through all of the cards in your hand. It’s better to have 5 strong turns than many more turns where you play 1 card per turn. Another way to use it is when you’re looking for a way to close out the game. Given how many sources of damage you have, when you get your opponent low, but you have no way to finish the game in your hand, Myra’s (especially Prep + Myra’s) can be a lifesaver. The chance to hit Evis, Pick, Leeroy etc. are very high and you’d be incredibly unlucky to not get anything.
Tempo Rogue Card Substitutions
At 12k Dust, this Tempo Rogue list is extremely expensive. That said, you CAN cut some of the Epics & Legendaries to decrease the cost significantly – most of the key cards in the deck are Common and Rare. Of course, the expensive cards are in this build for a reason, which means that replacing one or two of them with budget options likely won’t hurt your win rate, but if you get rid of all of them, then the deck will suffer heavily.
- Edwin VanCleef – Edwin is a great tool in Rogue, and if you like the class in general, I’d recommend crafting it, since it has seen play in many decks in the past. But it’s not really necessary in this deck. You can use basically any replacement. If you face many Rogues or Warriors, you can add Acidic Swamp Ooze. If you face lots of Aggro, you can add 1-drop like Crystallizer to have something to drop on T1 more consistently. You can also go for EVIL Cable Rat, but ONLY if you play Heistbaron Tog. Or just go for a generally solid minion, e.g. Blink Fox or Hench-Clan Burglar.
- Captain Greenskin – Great card in any weapon-heavy deck. It works best in Rogue, because even if you don’t have any weapons, you can always Hero Power to make it worth it. While not the most optimal play, turning your 1/2 Dagger into 2/3 can come handy sometimes – and even if it won’t, it will push some extra damage. But, again, the card is not necessary. Go for any of the replacements listed above.
- Leeroy Jenkins – To be perfectly honest, Leeroy should be one of the first Legendaries to craft, so I would totally do it if you have spare dust. And the deck would be way more difficult to play without Leeroy, since you would lose your main burst tool, especially when combined with Waggle Picks. I would probably add Cold Blood instead to have some more burst potential, but it’s worse than Leeroy. Alternatively, go for any of the replacements above.
- Myra's Unstable Element – Myra’s is not necessary, although the refill it provides comes handy sometimes. You can replace it with Sprint, but only if you have 2x Prep too – Sprint is too slow without Preps. Alternatively, use any of the replacements above.
- Zilliax – Zilliax is a cool anti-Aggro card, and one of the only Rogue has access to (since it’s Neutral). But, once again, it’s not necessary – the deck can operate well without it too. Again, use any of the replacements listed above.
- Heistbaron Togwaggle – There’s a big debate on whether Heistbaron Togwaggle is necessary in the first place. On the one hand, if you don’t happen to draw Lackey generators early, it’s very clunky – you don’t want a 6 mana 5/5 minion. On the other hand, when it works, it can totally carry the game. I’m in the Heistbaron camp – I think that the card is good, but given that many players have hit high Legend without it, it means that it’s definitely doable. So if you don’t have him, use any of the replacements above. Keep in mind that you still want to have EVIL Miscreants in your deck – it’s an amazing standalone card even without this Legendary.
- Preparation – Preparation is necessary in lots of Rogue decks, and I’d say that this is one of them. Gaining up to 3 mana for 0 mana is one of the best tempo plays in the game. Raiding Party, which is also a superb card, becomes pretty clunky without it in this list. If you’re commited to playing Rogue, Preps should be one of your first crafts.
- Waggle Pick – I didn’t like the card at first, but it turned out to be quite powerful. Yes, it sucks to get it removed, but if you can control the Deathrattle, it’s actually quite positive. Lets you get more value, more damage etc. It’s not a necessary card, but you HAVE to replace it with a weapon if you want to get advantage of Raiding Party. So you would probably want to play Necrium Blade instead just as a 3/2 weapon for 3 (like a post-nerf Fiery War Axe) even though you have no Deathrattles in the deck. Sadly there are no other Rogue weapons you’d want to play right now in Standard. Serrated Tooth is not impactful enough, Spectral Cutlass requires synergies, Assassin's Blade is too slow and Perdition's Blade is basically an Arena card.