Tempo Rogue Card Choices
There are couple of key questions to answer when building a Tempo Rogue deck:
First, the Prince Keleseth option. Rogue is the class that can support Keleseth the best, thanks to Shadowstep being able to return him back to your hand for another round of buffs. Alas, good players sometimes delay replaying Keleseth for a turn to have a zero-cost Prince Keleseth in hand ready to activate a combo, such as SI:7 Agent or Elven Minstrel, or opt to not go for double buffs altogether if they have other cards they will rather bounce: it is possible to run out of steam after playing Keleseth, unless you also have an Elven Minstrel available for a refill, so that Shadowstep may be more valuable on some other card.
Keleseth is especially strong if games go long, as it provides you with incremental value every turn. Keleseth is the standard option for Tempo Rogue decks, as the entire archetype climbed to the top thanks to the card. However, there is also another way. Using Keleseth means that you cannot use any other two-mana cards in the deck, and sometimes that is too hefty of a price to pay. The alternative line of thinking focuses on faster games and uses Eviscerate and Sap to be able to push damage faster and more reliably.
Second, there is the question of how burgle do you want to go? The new cards in The Witchwood promote Burgle Rogue as an archetype, and Tempo Rogue can be home to a medium-sized burgle package, not looking to go for a really long game, but trying to gain some surprises from cards from the opponent’s class. The burgle cards that fit in the archetype are Hallucination, Blink Fox, Face Collector, and Tess Greymane.
The main attraction of the burgle package in Tempo Rogue is Tess Greymane: Tess is a mixture of Yogg-Saron and N’Zoth, able to cast some spells and resummon a board of minions in the late game for one more big push towards victory. But what is the price of including Tess?
- Hallucination is the best burgle card, as it is a Discover effect. You are almost guaranteed to get something useful from Hallucination, because you get to choose from three options. However, a one-mana spell that does nothing immediately is low tempo. It may be saved by the fact that it only costs one mana, enabling it to easily activate Combo effects when played.
- Blink Fox is not quite as reliable as a burgle card, as it gives you a random card, which may or may not be useful in the situation you play the card in. However, Blink Fox is much easier to fit in a Tempo Rogue deck, because a three-mana 3/3 that gives you additional resources is both decent tempo and good value.
- Face Collector goes deeper into the value end of the spectrum. A mere 2/2 minion for three mana, it is unable to trade up and can easily be traded into by cheaper minions. You need to be looking for a fairly long game to make good use of Face Collector.
Therefore, there are multiple potential packages here. Just grab everything, and you’re set for some long games at the expense of a fair bit of tempo. Grab Hallucination, Blink Fox, and Tess Greymane, and you have a compromise package that can give you a Tess swing without compromising too much tempo. Finally, you can simply not take the burgle road at all, in which case you may still want to use Blink Fox as a stand-alone card, or even cut that one too for more tempo.
A couple of notes on Tess’s ability:
- If you switch your Hero – for example, by acquiring and playing a Hero Card from another class – your class becomes that class, and Tess will replay your Rogue cards instead of your opponent’s class cards.
- Cards from The Lich King are considered Death Knight class cards, and Tess will replay them. Cards from Ysera are neutral, and Tess will not replay them.
This brings us to another choice at the top of the Tempo Rogue curve: The Lich King. Some Tempo Rogue builds do not go above five mana at all, but the ones that do generally make the choice between Tess Greymane and The Lich King, both very potent late-game cards. The Lich King is more defense-oriented, whereas Tess can provide more value for an attack, so there are some meta considerations involved in making the choice. Some people even go for both, although that makes the deck a bit top-heavy.
The above are the main choices when building a Tempo Rogue. The rest of the deck comes together much more easily, even though some minor choices still remain.
Tempo Rogue core cards:
- Backstab provides the deck with an early answer to a minion and a zero-cost Combo effect activator at any point during the game.
- Shadowstep provides access to multiple uses of a Battlecry effect, most famously Prince Keleseth, but also SI:7 Agent, Elven Minstrel, Blink Fox, or Vilespine Slayer. It can also provide burst damage with Southsea Deckhand or Leeroy Jenkins. Some lists even combine it with Lifedrinker for some damage and healing.
- Fire Fly is simply one of the best one-drops in the game. It can help you activate combos and also serves as a pseudo two-drop if you cannot find your Keleseth.
- Edwin VanCleef is more famous from Miracle Rogue, where he can grow to a huge size, but he can still be a threat in Tempo Rogue as well.
- Hench-Clan Thug is a new card from The Witchwood. While it is a Neutral minion, it is a perfect fit to practically all Rogue decks, as Rogue usually wants to dagger up on turn two and can follow that up with Hench-Clan Thug and an attack on turn three to get a 4/4 with potential to grow on the board.
- Elven Minstrel is a key card draw tool, allowing you to look for more minions to play.
- Saronite Chain Gang is a strong defensive Taunt minion with a big upside when combined with the effect from Prince Keleseth.
- Vilespine Slayer is an effective hard removal minion that destroys a minion while giving you a decent body on the board at the same time.
- Leeroy Jenkins is a big finisher to end the game. When combined with Shadowstep and two copies Cold Blood, it can deliver up to 20 points of damage for ten mana. Tempo Rogue does not usually hold onto its cards for such a big combo though, but rather uses some of them earlier in the game and goes for a smaller burst finish in the end.
Tempo Rogue optional cards:
- Argent Squire: While some Tempo Rogue builds use only one one-drop (Fire Fly), some builds want to get on the board early a little more reliably, and Argent Squire is a good option for that.
- Southsea Deckhand: Another potential one-drop with a late-game burst finish option.
- Glacial Shard: Able to prevent the opponent or their minion from attacking, thus allowing you to choose trades or push face damage.
- Cold Blood: Additional damage that can be used for trades, for a lethal finisher, or for additional face damage in the early game. A flexible tool that has many uses throughout the game.
- Sonya Shadowdancer: Powerful card that can give you additional resources, especially some additional 1/1 copies of those great Battlecry minions that are plentiful in the deck.
- Tar Creeper: A strong defensive minion. Especially good if you also run Cold Blood, as then you have the option to turn it into an offensive threat as well or use it to protect a weaker minion that has been buffed.
- Marsh Drake: A strong tempo play on turn three that has good synergy with the Rogue Hero Power, as you can dagger down the Poisonous minion it summons for the opponent. However, if you cannot kill the minion, for example if there is a Taunt minion in the way, Marsh Drake is much less impressive. Hench-Clan Thug is simply stronger in every scenario, but Drake is an option if you need more three-drops.
- Vicious Fledgling: A growing minion that can win games if unanswered. Alas, it is usually fairly easily answered, as Tempo Rogue does not gain full board control that easily early on.
- Lifedrinker: Not only a Shaman combo card, Lifedrinker can also turn aggressive matchups around by dealing damage and healing at the same time.
- Cobalt Scalebane: A strong-statted dragon that buffs your other minions. Especially sweet with Tar Creeper.
Tempo Rogue tech cards:
- Spellbreaker: Should this be part of the core? Be that as it may, Spellbreaker is used a lot in the current meta, and it is the Silence effect of choice for Tempo Rogue.
- Fan of Knives: More of a Miracle Rogue card, but can be teched into Tempo Rogue to deal with decks such as Baku Odd Paladin that swarm the board with one-health minions.
Tempo Rogue Mulligan Strategy & Guide
VS Fast Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Prince Keleseth – The sweet Prince makes everything better.
- Fire Fly – The one-drop of choice to start the game.
- Backstab – Early removal spell.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
- SI:7 Agent – Keep on the Coin or with Backstab
- Tar Creeper and Saronite Chain Gang – Keep Taunt minions against Hunter.
- Edwin VanCleef – Keep with cheap activators.
- Hench-Clan Thug – Keep if you have some early game already.
VS Slow Decks
Higher Priority (Keep every time)
- Prince Keleseth – No description needed.
- Hench-Clan Thug – Your main growing threat for turn three.
- Fire Fly – Your one-drop.
Lower Priority (Keep only if certain conditions are met)
Tempo Rogue Win Rates
Tempo Rogue Play Strategy
Tempo Rogue is aggressive, but it is not a face deck. You’re looking to gain board control and then use your minions to push face damage.
However, thanks to the burst combos from Shadowstep, Cold Blood, Southsea Deckhand, and Leeroy Jenkins, you may have considerable reach available in the mid-to-late game, and you should always be looking for opportunities to push face damage instead of trading if that allows you to set up lethal from hand.
VS Aggro Decks
Most of the time, you are the control deck against aggro decks. However, there are two peculiarities to playing Tempo Rogue against aggro:
- You mostly cannot heal (unless you have Lifedrinker in the deck or can get healing from the opponent’s class)
- You have significant reach with some hands
What these mean is that you also need to set up a clock on the opponent, if they have a reliable source of damage. Hunter and Mage, for example, will eventually simply kill you if you stall indefinitely. Their Hero Power and spells make that inevitable. Against Paladin things can be different, because they generally have only a little damage from hand, and if you control the board, you are relatively safe.
The question is, how do you set the aggro deck on a clock? Early Edwin VanCleef or Hench-Clan Thug can provide that damage, but they are of no use if you lose the entire board before you can play them. Therefore, you need both some early game and a threat to start pushing back. In the right situation, you can then even race the aggro deck – no or only little trading – and finish first.
The key is to recognize how much damage you can deal and how much damage the opponent can deal. Taunt minions are usually very important in aggro matchups, as they allow you to set up trades better and push more face damage while making smart trades. In general, if the aggro deck has a lot of reach from hand, you need to look for opportunities to race. If the aggro deck is very board-reliant, a defensive board control strategy is more viable.
VS Control Decks
Against control decks, you are the beatdown. They will try to stop you, and you will try to kill them.
Do not go all-in on the board: Keep in mind the type of board clears the opponent has, such as three points of area-of-effect damage from Priest’s Duskbreaker or Warlock’s Hellfire, and the Warlock’s 1-2-3 math puzzle that is Defile. Try to set up boards that are awkward to clear and have a plan on how to refill if your board ends up getting wiped. You have a lot of value in the deck, you do not have to win with your first board. Keep up the pressure, make the control player uncomfortable, and force out that removal.
Do not be afraid to use Cold Blood early if the minion may survive to hit with it twice – it can end up dealing more damage than if saved for a burst finish and also force the opponent to use removal while your board is not that big yet and is easily replaceable.
Tempo Rogue Card Substitutions
You can expect a meta Tempo Rogue deck to cost around 7,000 to 10,000 dust. However, Tempo Rogue has very few mandatory expensive cards, so it is possible to play it on a budget as well.
- Vilespine Slayer – The most important expensive card in the deck. Hard removal combined with a body on the board is such a huge tempo swing, I would not advise to play the deck without Vilespines. You can go for Assassinate or Plague Scientist, but your win rate will suffer and Vilespine Slayer should be your first craft for the archetype.
- Prince Keleseth – A huge power play, but can nonetheless make room for a faster build that runs Eviscerate and Sap. Keleseth is still one of the defining cards of the archetype, and one of the first cards to craft for it.
- Edwin VanCleef and Sonya Shadowdancer – Can replace each other, for a budget option you can go for Vicious Fledgling.
- Leeroy Jenkins – Use Southsea Deckhand, or if you already have them in the list, strengthen another area of the deck instead of looking for a direct replacement.
- The Lich King and Tess Greymane – Can replace each other. You also want Hallucinations with Tess, but not with Lich King. If you have neither, end your curve at five mana and strengthen your early game, do not look for a direct replacement.