The idea behind so-called “Miracle” Rogue decks, which win via a one-turn-kill (“OTK”) by dealing an obscene amount of damage from hand, is certainly not a new one. Through most of Hearthstone’s existence, Rogue as a class mainly revolved around that playstyle! With cheap and effective removal, efficient followup minions, and the Combo mechanic that rewards playing multiple cards in a turn, Valeera constantly wages a tempo-centric war against her opponents. By taking the early tempo lead and presenting ever-increasing pressure, the Rogue player slowly but surely gets through the opponent’s defences, inflicting ever-greater amounts of damage and neutralising threats through her Hero Power’s two “free” attacks.
Striking a balance between attacking prowess and defensive finesse, everything seems in order until the Rogue player pieces together the puzzle of the deck’s finishing move. With a barrage of spells, she delivers a final, crushing blow to the opponent and secures the victory, sometimes snatching it from the jaws of defeat in miraculous fashion! It is this final move, the finisher as we call it, that distinguishes one Rogue deck from another and defines their respective approaches towards the execution of the combo.
Into The Hearthstone Fray!
Malygos has always been a niche card: with a cost of 9 mana, a weak body, and no Battlecry effect, this Legendary minion had a hard time finding a reliable home! That all changed with the release of Emperor Thaurissan. Cards that could never previously be cast together now could be, and a healthy number of decks that capitalised on the Emperor’s unique ability emerged. One of those new contenders was Malygos Rogue, until recently eclipsed by its older and more versatile cousin, Malygos Druid. With potential damage as high 30+ points from hand as well as a plethora of early game draw and removal options, the Rogue version seems to combine the best of both worlds! With new expansions having introduced even more tools like Tomb Pillager, Arcane Giant, and Counterfeit Coin, everything seems to be falling into place for Valeera and her blue dragon companion!
One of the advantages of Malygos Rogue is an array of favorable matchups that are hard to do well against, such as Reno Warlock, Dragon Priest, Dragon Warrior, Jade Druid, and slower versions of Tempo / Midrange Shaman. This comes at a price though, with not-inconsiderable disadvantageous matchups: almost every consistent aggro deck is favored against this list! The metagame is in upheaval again with the release of the March patch, but given the sheer amount of aggro present in the previous month we’ll have to wait and see how ladder develops to know how viable the list is. However, tournament play is a whole different story! Being able to specifically target matchups in both the dominant tournament formats makes Malygos Rogue a very strong contender for a spot, especially when factoring in the element of surprise!
Deck Backbone and Gameplan
These cards represent the core of the deck. I would consider them absolutely indispensable!
Here’s a sample completed decklist: the one that I personally run!
The general plan when playing Malygos as the primary element of your win condition is to cycle through as much of your deck as possible in the least amount of time, while keeping the board safe by removing the opponent’s minions and preventing them from attaining a solid foothold that could threaten lethal damage in the next few turns. Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Bloodmage Thalnos, and Azure Drake really reach their full potential in this deck, as they keep the cards flowing with our cheap removal spells. After gathering a predetermined number of combo pieces, Emperor Thaurissan is used to discount them and subsequently allow us to chain them for the kill. You should be aiming for discounts on at least two damaging cards, with three cards being extremely good value and four or more basically the dream scenario!
Having used this deck for a good amount of time before Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, I often found myself lacking mid-game plays that applied pressure. Short of a good Auctioneer turn or a humongous Edwin VanCleef, I found that I was gaining good card and tempo advantage but unable to capitalise on it. What I was missing was a turn or two of added pressure to my opponent’s life total, an offensive threat that was actually important enough to disrupt the natural flow of his play. In short, I needed more stats on more minions. Drawing inspiration from the Malygos Druid variant of the pre-MSoG times, however, we find a solution!
Druid gets to play big cards fast through the use of accelerants like Wild Growth and Innervate, while Rogue can cheaply and effectively remove early threats and maintain constant card draw. What makes Druid so powerful is the fact that this natural use of cards that expand the mana pool or control the board actually contributes towards a complementary win condition: Arcane Giant. Without ever going out their way, Druids are able to present 8/8 threats as early as turns five and six, all the while still progressing towards their primary goal of killing their opponent via Malygos and a wave of burn spells!
This is where Counterfeit Coin comes in: think of this card as a “mini” Innervate. We not only get the ability to play something ahead of curve, but we reduce the cost of the Arcane Giant while doing so. Pair that with the natural Coin acquisition from Tomb Pillager and we can theoretically net up to an eight-mana discount to Arcane Giant. Essentially, we can play the Giant at the same point as if we were playing Druid and use it in the same ways: buying time, contesting the board, and dealing damage to the opponent.
This last factor is incredibly valuable. Each hit from a Giant is, in theory, a Malygos-buffed Sinister Strike, furthering our lethal reach. Together with VanCleef, the Arcane Giants round out our package of mid-game threats, keeping up enough pressure that even the most finely-tuned control decks will find it difficult to deny us the space we need to close out the game. At the same time, they’re able to straight up win the game alone if uncontested!
Mulligans and Matchups
Such is the diversity on ladder, you can never know for sure which iteration of a particular deck you’re going to face! Reno decks pack all kinds of tech tailored to specific matchups, Shaman comes in multiple different packages, ditto Warrior, Rogue plays either Combo or Miracle, Warlock can be aggressive or controlling, and Priest also uses Reno or one of the Dragon variants. In order to mulligan correctly we must focus on our battle plan, which is to survive a strong early game, contest tempo on mid game, and close the game soon after. What we always want to have in our starting hand, regardless of matchup, are cards like Backstab, Counterfeit Coin, SI:7 Agent, or Jade Shuriken (depending on your tech of choice), and to a lesser extent, Shiv, Eviscerate, and Tomb Pillager.
Against Warlock we almost always need a strong start to curb any potential plays that would allow them to snowball us. Any four-, five-, or six-drop is a keep, and anything else that fills up the curve is great. Always check for lethal damage with Bloodmage Thalnos plays, especially when the Warlock is below 20 life. Probably the only matchup where, more often than not, Malygos is not the key card!
Priest is a different story, since their decks usually present high health minions which are hard to break through without the aid of Tomb Pillager and timely deployment of Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Keeping these two cards is worthy of consideration when we are on the draw. Otherwise, take a more reactive approach, with cheap damage being our number one priority. Hero Power on turn two with tempo advantage is a must in this matchup. Tomb Pillager and Shadow Strike are to be kept at all costs. Bloodmage Thalnos with any kind of cheap damage is also great for tempo!
Druid is probably the most straightforward of the matchups, as it mostly depends on whether Malfurion hits early ramp in conjunction with strong Jade Golem plays. It’s very difficult to comeback from such a position, with the burden falling mainly on Gadgetzan Auctioneer. Arcane Giant and Edwin VanCleef are extremely effective ways to pressure. Tomb Pillager is a great keep, and I like to search for Gadgetzan Auctioneer in the starting hand. Never miss a beat on tempo, always playing at least one minion per turn and forcing the opponent to expend his mana on dealing with threats instead of creating them. Whenever the Druid spends mana dealing with your minions, he essentially wastes all his earlier investment in ramp!
Mages, particularly Reno variants, are some of the worst matchups for this deck, though we have time to draw cards to our heart’s content. You should plan as though you have all the necessary cards on the top of your deck, since it is quite likely you’ll have drawn most of them by turn nine or so if you have a strong start. Arcane Giant really shines in this matchup, along with Edwin VanCleef: the earlier they are played, the better your chances of bursting through Ice Block! Aim for a solid mid-game curve, and get the most out of your Auctioneers. Having limited draw options, Mage relies on the controlling the natural flow of the game; so aim for high impact plays in the early game to keep the Mage on his toes and push as much damage as possible.
Combo Rogue is our cousin, and unfortunately she is faster, stronger, and meaner than we are! We constantly find ourselves needing specific answers, without the luxury of being able to miss a beat. To top it off, we have no way to deal with Concealed minions and no Taunts to hide behind! Prevailing in this matchup comes solely through out-curving your opponent. Trading cards efficiently, presenting the first real threat, and landing an optimal Auctioneer are all mandatory. Be liberal in your use of combo pieces as removal and draw, so long as it can be translated into tempo gain! Prioritise lowering the opponent’s life total, since this can prematurely enable lethal damage for you. Sap is a key card, since it can halt the opponent’s mid-game tempo plays. A pretty hard matchup overall, we are definitely the underdog!
With the backbone of the deck practically set in stone, there’s still a little room for tech choices!
Jade Shuriken has been surprisingly good for me! Providing early game removal, a small body, and an extra spell to be used with Malygos it has been pivotal in many matchups, helping keep early onslaughts at bay and providing a modicum of counterpressure. Alternatively, Shadow Strike is a personal favorite of mine since it combos fully with Preparation and usually removes a target worth much more than its own cost.
Barnes is also a card that I ultimately decided was not really worth including, though it has undeniable potential. A really strong turn 4 play with a decent statline, the thespian stakes a strong claim through his very real potential. Boasting synergistic minion “hits” such as Emperor, Pillager, Auctioneer, or even Malygos himself, Barnes can essentially be an alternate win condition. The RNG of Barnes can even be optimally managed late in the game to improve your chance of pulling game-winning cards. At times he’s essentially a 4 mana Malygos! However, the problem is that Barnes is usually a second-rate play, both on turn four and after. Tomb Pillager, Azure Drake, and Gadgetzan Auctioneer are all highly prioritised as on-curve plays, leaving Barnes struggling to find his place in our gameplan, especially considering his limited usefulness as a topdeck.
SI:7 Agent is the card that I had the most trouble rating, since it always feels like a must-have. After much tinkering, I found that his mana cost of 3 is extremely clunky to fit in later turns. While extremely effective early, the Agent feels heavy and unwieldy when we need to perform an inordinate amount of actions with our limited mana pool. When compared to Jade Shuriken, I felt that this card was severely outclassed given the sheer amount of utility that a single mana discount offers. However, if you find yourself looking for more solid, tempo-oriented cards, then certainly the Agent is your man!
Shaku, the Collector is another fantastically-designed card, filling a void in our mana curve that otherwise looms large, all the while offering the added (potentially game-winning) bonus of a random extra class card. Certainly a fair choice on all its merits, but I still feel there are better options out there since what the deck actually needs from its early game cards is board control and removal and Shaku offers neither. Feel free to play around with him, but keep in mind that he is more than likely, not optimal.
1 or 2 copies of Sap is one of the most basic questions you have to ask yourself when running this deck. In my opinion, this is totally a matter of playstyle and preference. Two copies of this card lets you to be much more liberal in its usage and gives you a very reliable chance to have it drawn by turn four, whereas running just a single copy lets you to pack in even more damage spells or just some more utility. Try both versions, feel the deck out with each one, and then make your choice!
That’s roughly the outline of Malygos Rogue, which I hope you give a try for both tournaments and ladder. When used properly and in the right matchups, this deck has far better chances for victory than typical for Combo Rogue! With the new patch having just hit the servers, this deck is well-positioned since the latest balance changes discourage hyper aggro lists and let us use our turn two Hero Power more effectively. Although these are still unfavorable matchups, we get to enjoy more turns without significant pressure from the opponent’s board and hence have more chances to draw into our answers with life total intact. Once the meta stabilizes, tech cards will be critical once again, demanding that you be familiar with how the deck works to make an informed choice. So take your blue-scaled wyrm out for a spin, trash some established meta decks, and don’t forget to enjoy the ride! After all, dragons are the coolest method of transportation!