Hopper Rogue Overview
Pogo-Hopper is a very interesting card. It starts as a meek 2 mana 1/1 Mech, but every time you play an extra copy, that copy gets +2/+2 compared to the last one. It’s a bit like Jade mechanic, but all built into a single card. While the first one is a terrible tempo play, the second one is already okay (2 mana 3/3 minion isn’t the best thing ever, but playing it is not a tempo loss). Then, the further we go, the better they get. 5/5, 7/7, 9/9 etc. At one point you start dropping nearly 20 attack minions for just 2 mana, something that your opponent simply has to answer or they die. In the late game, you flood your opponent with a massive threat after threat, and wait for just a single turn in which they will miss a single removal and just kill them.
But, in order to do that, you first need to shuffle Hoppers into your deck. A lot of them. The best way to do that is another new card from Boomsday Project – Lab Recruiter. It shuffled 3 copies of a chosen minion to your deck, just like a Gang Up, but with a 3/2 body (which is pretty important, especially if you’re doing it in the early-mid game). Just a single Lab Recruiter on your Hopper means that you can get up to 9/9 with the last one. But that’s obviously not all. You can use Shadowstep to play it another time, get another copy of Lab Recruiter with Zola the Gorgon (or just straight up copy a Pogo-Hopper for less long-term value, but more immediate tempo). You can also combine it with Vanish (especially with Preparation), not to mention the late game Valeera the Hollow shenanigans.
Thanks to the Valeera, it’s actually pretty easy to go “infinite” if you find yourself in a matchup in which you need to do so. You play Pogo-Hopper, then one Lab Recruiter on your Hopper and a second Lab Recruiter on your first one. This shuffled 3 copies of both into your deck, which means that you can do your shenanigans for much, much longer. If you find yourself running out of cards again (very unlikely), you can just do the same thing second time! While it’s a cool play, against most of the decks you won’t even need to do it. Assuming you play four Lab Recruiters in total (which is not that hard with all of your tools), all on Pogo-Hoppers, you already shuffle 12 of them into your deck, which means that not only you’re far away from fatigue, but your final Hoppers will go up to 27/27, almost enough to one-hit a full health opponent. Probably even bigger, given that in the late game you will often play two per turn thanks to Valeera, but the basic premise is simple – they are big enough that they need to be answered IMMEDIATELY or else they just kill your opponent.
However, the real shenanigans will start after you play Myra's Unstable Element. While in most of the builds emptying your deck might seem like a massive downside, it’s not exactly the same thing in this one. Of course, first you need to make sure that you have enough shuffle cards ready, and you’d also like to have your DK Hero (but she’s not absolutely necessary). When you end up with an empty deck, you want to shuffle a bunch of Pogo-Hoppers back to not only prevent fatigue, but draw massive threats every turn. That’s also where Valeera comes handy – normally you will draw 1 per turn (at least if you don’t have Sprint, Elven Minstrel or something), but Valeera will let you play it twice, putting not one, but two big threats on the board every single turn. You basically put your opponent in a scenario in which they have to manage their removals and kill you very quickly. The best course of action would be rushing you down during your Unstable Element turn, when you have to spend 5 mana on the Legendary spell and then some more on shuffling. However, that’s where Fal'dorei Striders come handy. Unless you get really unlucky, Myra’s Unstable Element should draw and trigger some of the Spiders you’ve shuffled into your deck. So instead of starting his offense, your opponent might be forced to clear your board first, which buys you a precious turn to start dropping Hoppers.
Like I’ve mentioned in the introduction, Hoppers aren’t the only focus of the deck. It plays some other cards that are unrelated to the plan. For example – Fire Fly gives an early game play as well as a small combo activator. The card is not impressive and it doesn’t synergize with your game plan, but it often lets you not fall behind on the board so early in the game. SI:7 Agent is just a solid 3-drop/removal, I thought about putting Hench-Clan Thug instead, but I feel like SI is just stronger against Aggro than Hench-Clan, and that’s the deck’s main goal – surviving. You should have lots of power plays against slow decks anyway, so you don’t need that Hench-Clan Thug. Fal'dorei Strider is just a great 4-drop, and it does what I’ve mentioned above – create some tempo on the turns on which your opponent might want to take control of the game. Vilespine Slayer is just a solid removal on a stick, and it works well in most of the matchups.
Since your Pogo-Hoppers will get big pretty quickly, there is another cool thing you can do thanks to a new Legendary – Zilliax. Hoppers are Mechs, so you can Magnetize into them. While other Magnetize cards seem a bit pointless (you don’t need to add +5/+5 to already huge minions), Zilliax is different. It gives Hopper Divine Shield, Lifesteal, Rush and Taunt. On a big enough minion, it basically means clearing something on the board, healing up to full and leaving a massive Taunt minion behind. The card can also be somewhat useful against Aggro decks if you play it without Magnetize – you will usually clear two small minions and gain some life, which isn’t game-winning, but might be enough to stall the game. I actually think about adding some more defensive tools, such as Sunfury Protector – Hoppers are cheap, so it’s easy to play both on the same turn, and dropping e.g. 5/5 + 7/7 and a Sunfury Protector in between them can put a nice Taunt wall and buy you some time. Still, that part really depends on the meta. Aggro decks will definitely be your worst enemy, but that’s how snowball decks work. If you get enough time to perform your game plan, it’s very powerful, but faster decks won’t give you that time. So if the meta turns out to be faster, either the deck will need to adapt or it will have to wait for a better time.
While it’s most likely not a final version of the deck list yet, I can already discuss some of the cards I’ve decided to not include for various reasons. Some of them I don’t think belong in the deck, some are too greedy, some might be tech cards and others I just didn’t have space for. By no means I’m saying that this is the best build – we won’t know which is the best one until we get to play around with the new cards after expansion’s launch. The build will most likely change, so some of the cards listed below might get into the final version.
- Baleful Banker – Lab Recruiter is just so much better. One more attack, shuffles two more copies. While you could play Baleful Banker as a plan B, I don’t think that’s exactly necessary, and running two many of cards that shuffle stuff might get clunky.
- Cheat Death – That’s something I was really thinking about, because the deck runs so many targets it would want to bounce back – Hoppers, Lab Recruiters, Vilespine Slayers, even Minstrels and Fal’Dorei Striders are good. I’m just not sure what to cut, and whether it’s really necessary. Shadowstep is just more consistent, since you can pick the target and you don’t have to worry about dropping let’s say Fire Fly or SI:7 (because while not the worst stuff ever, you don’t really want to copy those). Again, just like in case of Baleful Banker, some redundancy is good, but you don’t need too much of that.
- Youthful Brewmaster – It’s not Quest Rogue. Bouncing the Hoppers is slow and counter-productive, you prefer to copy them instead. Bouncing one only gives you +2/+2 and doesn’t add any more copies. Brewmasters are pretty clunky and actually destroy your tempo, which is never good in a deck that is already slow. They’re definitely bad vs Aggro and you simply don’t need them vs slow decks – you have lots of ways to shuffle dozens of Hoppers, or even go infinite, without Brewmasters.
- Mimic Pod – It’s slow and until the late game it has a rather low chance to hit one of the cards you would really want to duplicate. And when you get to the late game, you don’t really need it anymore.
- Sonya Shadowdancer – I was picking between her and Zola, but I’ve decided that Zola is just better, more consistent. Sonya works best on minions with Charge or Rush, since you can play both from the hand and get immediate value. To guarantee Sonya value, you need to have a target you want to copy already on the board, being able to attack, and a minion you can trade into. It doesn’t seem that hard, but your opponent will most likely try to clear off the best targets to play around her, as well as Shadowstep and such. Since Lab Recruiter (the best target to copy) has only a 3/2 body, most of the time it will die right after it’s played, leaving you win no way to gain value from Sonya. And since it has no Charge, if you play it again immediately, you won’t be able to copy it again anyway. In case of Zola, you can play both Lab Recruiter or Hopper AND Zola on the same turn, guaranteeing value. Sonya has a better “best case scenario” (as you can potentially copy multiple minions), but it’s very unlikely. On the other hand, you might end up in a situation in which you can’t use her to copy anything at all, and you’d wish you have Zola then. I think that including both is just too greedy, but we’ll see.
- Giggling Inventor, Rotten Applebaum or some other mid-game defensive card – That’s where I think this deck might struggle most. In the early game, Rogue’s Hero Power and the early drops, Fan of Knives etc. might carry it a bit. Then, later in the game when you actually start dropping big Hoppers, you can Zilliax one, or first Vanish and then drop a Hopper or two and win the game that way. However, the mid game is where you will struggle most against Aggro. So including some anti-Aggro tools that might let you survive a bit longer might be necessary. It will obviously depend on what the meta looks like, but Giggling Inventor might be an okay choice. It will usually block LOTS of damage and just stall the game for a bit, which is really important.