Our Tempo Rogue deck list guide goes through the ins-and-outs of this popular Rogue build for the Saviors of Uldum expansion! This guide will teach you how to mulligan, pilot, and substitute cards for this archetype!
Introduction to Tempo Rogue
Rogue as a class and tempo cards went hand in hand ever since the game was created, so it’s no surprise that a variant of 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 and the deck became so effective with the combination of the strong Basic and Classic cards alongside the tools in Rise of Shadows that it actually got hit by a nerf bat. Though it didn’t get many shiny goodies in Saviors of Uldum, the addition of Hooked Scimitar and Pharaoh Cat further increased the consistency of the latest builds which moved on from incorporating a lot of expensive mid game Legendaries (which made the deck way cheaper than it was in Rise of Shadows).
Keep in mind that players still weren’t able to figure out the best version. While more aggressive version (often called “Face Rogue”) is the most popular, some players had success with a more classic “Thief” version running the whole Underbelly Fence, Blink Fox, Vendetta etc. package
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.
- Pharaoh Cat – A fairly sticky one-drop which replaces itself and allows you to deal with 2-health minions with your dagger on the next turn.
- Faerie Dragon – This card provides additional early-game tempo for a deck that often has to resort to finicky plays on turn 3 or 4.
- 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)
- 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)
- Pharaoh Cat – Solid 1-drop, no reason to not keep it, since it replaces itself with something. While it can give you a useless card, having some board presence on T1 is important.
- 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 1/4 when going first, but you still might be able to activate it with a Backstab, and you can always hold it until T4-T5 and it will still be great.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- 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 a Coin. For example, Turn 2 Coin + Backstab + Edwin is a great play. You create an early 6/6 without using too many of your precious resources.
Tempo Rogue Play Strategy
VS Aggro Decks
Rogue was never known as a great anti-aggro class: the lack of board clears, strong permanent removals and heals – not to mention 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.
This means that you can’t go for the long game under most circumstances, especially because you almost always have more burn to work with than your opponents will. The basic idea is therefore to out-tempo them in the early game and capitalize on the board control you’ve gained and the repetitive minion damage it entails, not to mention that you get to dictate the trades in a way that’s favorable to you. 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. Keep cheap cards and Combo cards that you CAN activate (with Coin, Backstab etc.) Then, during the first few turns, you have to play as fast as possible to push your opponent off the board, regardless of how many resources this requires from you. 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 in early game – poke those minions every time you have a good attack. In the long run, you’ll save yourself damage because the minions won’t get to hit you over and over again – however, keep in mind that the math can quickly shift in mirrors as fellow Rogue players can burst you down heavily with Waggle Picks, Leeroy Jenkins and all their other goodies.
That said, you don’t want to play the control role forever: once you’ve established board control, it’s time to push face damage. You have more than enough burst in the deck to close out the game even if your opponent manages to take back the initiative, so don’t help him by overtrading. 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.
VS Control Decks
Control matchups are actually more straightforward – especially in the early game, where they struggle to contest your board development. 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 an Aggro 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, especially now that Hooked Scimitar servers as a viable alternative weapon play. 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 8/8 VanCleef on T2-T3 and then just winning the game on the back 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 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.
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 Jenkins, 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. 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. Given that you likely haven’t taken nearly any damage until that point (other than weapon pokes into minions), you still have like 4-6 turns to kill them, which should be enough to go through all of the cards in your hand. It’s better to have even 4 strong turns than many more turns where you play 1 card per turn (and just slowly lose the game). 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 can be a lifesaver. The chance to hit Eviscerate, Pick, Leeroy etc. are very high and you’d be incredibly unlucky to not get anything.
Tempo Rogue Card Substitutions
The currently popularized Tempo Rogue builds are fairly cheap as they’ve cut many of the expensive cards seen in the Rise of Shadows builds in favor of more all-out aggressive tools. However, even the remaining ones can be adjusted if you’re looking for budget options.
- 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 another 1-drop like Crystallizer to have something to drop on T1 more consistently. You can also add a second Faerie Dragon. Or just go for a generally solid minion, e.g. Blink Fox or Hench-Clan Burglar.
- 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 (even though it’s weaker after the nerf), 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. As the closest effect, you can technically replace it with Sprint, but I would’t recommend it – Sprint is way too slow. You should probably just add any of the solid cards listed above and hope that you will be able to close out games quickly.
Potential (more expensive) additions include the usual suspects from the older Rise of Shadows builds, plus one surprise recommendation:
- 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. Even though the card is not played in featured build, it’s a good one.
- Zilliax – Zilliax is a cool anti-Aggro card, and one of the only Rogue has access to (since it’s Neutral). Great addition if you run into plethora of aggressive decks.
- Heistbaron Togwaggle – The card still works fairly well against Warriors in enabling disgusting turns, though the fact that the current builds don’t feature Shadowsteps or Spirit of the Sharks greatly caps its effectiveness.
- Special mention needs to be given to Zephrys the Great as a potential alternative to Faerie Dragon for post-Myra’s situations as a chance for additional Hail Mary plays. If you do decide to try it out, make sure to treat it as a Faerie Dragon first and foremost and play it on curve!