For a refresher, this is our deck:
### Secret Heavy Heresy
# Class: Rogue
# Format: Standard
# Year of the Gryphon
# 2x (0) Preparation
# 2x (0) Shadowstep
# 2x (1) Blackjack Stunner
# 2x (1) Prize Plunderer
# 2x (1) Wand Thief
# 2x (2) Ambush
# 2x (2) Bamboozle
# 2x (2) Dirty Tricks
# 1x (2) Shadowjeweler Hanar
# 2x (2) Swindle
# 1x (2) Tenwu of the Red Smoke
# 2x (2) Wicked Stab (Rank 1)
# 1x (3) Mankrik
# 2x (3) Sparkjoy Cheat
# 2x (3) Venomous Scorpid
# 1x (4) Kazakus, Golem Shaper
# 1x (6) Jandice Barov
# 1x (9) Alexstrasza the Life-Binder
I have some changes in mind, actually, namely gearing towards a potential 7th Secret and an Ogremancer, but I’m going to keep talking about this same list for now. On stream I’ll have likely since-deviated from this exact one, but fundamentally things stay about the same. With buffs and nerfs supposedly coming in soon (hopefully next Tuesday? I’m 99% sure I saw devs talking about waiting until after the MT to drop the changes, but now I don’t even know lmao) I’m reluctant to make and commit to any huge changes, as this is likely the end of this particular meta.
Again, for what it’s worth, Miracle Rogue is insanely good, and probably even the better deck in a vacuum. But the deck is absurdly hard, even harder than Secret, and in a weird way I’d almost advocate for playing and learning Secret before moving into Miracle if you’re an aspiring Rogue player. But if things like Octo-bot get nerfed Secrets might certainly reign supreme, and I did go back and try some October Robert in this deck, by the way– it feels like a complete and utter brick in every position other than fishing for it in mulligans, and I’d rather test without it for now. And this next matchup that we’ll be talking about today is actually one of the best reasons to play Secret Rogue, in my opinion: Aggro Buff Paladin.
Here’s Monsanto’s list from the Master’s Tour, and notably it includes Crab Rider, Nerubian Egg, Blessing of Kings, Blessing of Authority, and No Secrets but still four Weapons. These are more or less what defines the difference between this deck and what the Paladin of yesterweek was dominating with, as we no longer have to play around Sword of the Fallen Oh-My-Yogging your Coin on turn 2 and instead need to worry about some very sticky bois and lots of Damage. Fortunately for us Paladin Buffs have never lined up well against Sap, let alone Blackjack Stunner, let alone casting, like, 5 of them.
Secret Rogue vs. Aggro Buff Paladin
We (Rogue players) are the Control Deck. Priest made us the Aggro Deck because we could run out of steam if we relented– Hunter made us the Control Deck because if we did not stem the early aggression we would bleed out before we could win– Paladin now makes us the Control Deck because we happen to have some very good Answers to their very specific Questions.
Paladin aims to throw a gigantic +8/+8 onto a minion– but it can’t punch face when they do, so they spend an entire turn and a card to just get yoinked back to hand by Blackjack Stunner. This duel is as old as time: Aggro Paladin wants to spend a card to get stats, and Secret Rogue can easily spend a card in return to invalidate that entire play. Like in most other Aggro matchups played from Rogue’s perspective, we can’t afford to let anything gigantic hit us even once– Rhinos are not allowed to get back up, and neither are buffed Paladin minions. This, too, is a classic tale across many games and strategies: when decks are trying to construct themselves in order to Count To 20 or 30, you can’t allow their card they usually hope to Just Deal 3 to deal something like 6 or 9 instead.
The key cards from Paladin to play around are their Pump Spells on 2, 4 and 5– Hand of A’dal, Blessing of Kings and Blessing of Authority– but also very importantly their Weapons: Underlight Angling Rod and Hammer of the Naaru are some of the only cards that come out very-hopefully from the Paladin’s perspective on 3 and 6 and actually do something to your board.
Our key cards are Blackjack Stunner, Bamboozle vs Underlight Angling Rod, and Ambush to contest early Crab Riders and Righteous Protectors. Honestly this entire matchup is determined first around the question of “Did a Buff Get To Stick?” Was Paladin allowed to actually jam a +4/+4 and untap with it? In many cases a good Paladin player will be trying to just not instantly lose the game to a Blackjack Stunner, but sometimes this can be almost impossible. The saving grace for Paladin is that their Weapons + Alexstrasza can sometimes end up stealing a game, and so now we find ourselves in a weird mirror universe to Priest versus Rogue, except now Rogue is the Priest and Paladin is the Rogue.
Blackjack Stunner, Ambush, Sparkjoy Cheat, Mankrik, Kazakus, and Jandice with Coin.
As always we try to find our Secrets– we still wanna cast Sparkjoy Cheat on 3, and in a perfect world we’d still love to play our Legends ASAP. Kazakus Golems provide a really powerful swing turn on 5, which is also the same time the big giant pump spells start coming– the thing is, if we commit our turn to a 2 for 1 and they just spend all of their mana investing a single Blessing of Authority, Rogue often gets to untap (sorry, Magic lingo but it’s invaluable lol) and just play four cards that include bouncing the Pumped Creature and the game is over. In this way the Earlier the Pump the better, and so we need to be spooked of getting blown out early with our pants down and no Stunners in sight. A dance evolves around Paladin ever being able to “Take A Turn Off” and force Rogue to have the answer, while spinning around gameplans that may or may not involve anything getting pumped or bounced at all. If you lose if you play Blessing of Authority, can you ever cast it? If you never cast it, do we even need Blackjack Stunner? It turns out that yes, bouncing almost every single minion that Paladin has in this deck is the nuts and ever being able to do it twice in a game is quite literally GG.
Ideal Turn 1 Plays:
Paladin: First Day of School, Knight of Anointment, Righteous Protector, some goofy Coin Crabrider into Hand of A’dals
Rogue: Prep Ambush, Coin Dagger Kill The x/1 or start taking shields off
Paladin has a ton of very good turn 1 plays, especially things that eventually involve triple-one-drop thanks to First Day of School. We Rogues don’t need to freak out, but we certainly do need to consider heavily respecting whether or not we can beat a Hand of A’dal on their 1 drop. If the context of your hand is just going to get murdered by a 3/3 into backup, then I really advocate for Coin Dagger to kill the Knight of Anointment or random 2/1 they drove to school. It feels like a pattern across some of these matchups but it’s true– if you have your 2 > 3 > 4 curve already in hand, it often becomes a game-winning play to Dagger Up and keep the board clear. Even just saving that second charge of durability means clearing a really important Divine Shield on turn 5 or 6, and you’ll feel 5head as heck when you do. Early Ambush into early Bamboozle is a really strong play that beats Crabrider and then beats Underlight Angling Rod, often resulting in a 3 for 1 that you can ride to victory.
Ideal Turn 2 Plays:
Paladin: Hand of A’dal, Crabrider, multiple 1 drops, Nerubian Egg
Rogue: Ambush, sometimes Coin Prize Plunderer turns, and as always some Coin 3 into 3 for next turn
This turn tends to be a little bit of a stall turn from both sides that threatens action in upcoming turns. A lot of Paladin’s plays that aren’t just jamming and getting Super Aggressive / asking the Rogue to have the answer to a Hand of A’dal tend to involve chilling and playing an Egg or empty Crabrider. This tends to be one of two extreme reactions for Rogue– we have to freak out and answer a 3/3 or 3 different creatures that might just get in way too much damage, or we also super chill and develop a Secret and sit back, waiting to answer. Nerubian Egg is probably the least scary card to see when Rogue has a 3/3 because Paladin can only cast Conviction to kill it, Hand of A’dal is too small and the other pump spells cost too much, but the Egg is actually still more threatening than the Nerubian inside. There’s a weird tension between wanting to bounce the Egg and the Nerubian, but I’d advocate for clearing the Egg and then Blackjack Stunnering the 4/4 if you can– it costs more, and doesn’t still threaten a 2 for 1 when it comes back down, should the Egg ever actually get to pump up and trade off.
Ideal Turn 3 Plays:
Paladin: Underlight Angling Rod, Goody Two-Shields, or 2 + 1s
Rogue: Secret + Blackjack Stunner, Sparkjoy Cheat, Mankrik, Prize Plunderer kills
This is actually the most narrow turn from Paladin and can be taken advantage of pretty easily. They really want to play a 3 drop here, but they don’t have too many– if they whiff and play some medium minions or pump spells, we can often answer back with a Prize Plunderer turn involving Prep Secret Whatever Prize Plunderer. The bummer is that Underlight Angling Rod does an amazing job at killing our Ambush minions and our Sparkjoy Cheats…unless we have Bamboozle! Sparkjoy putting in Bamboozle is one of the best plays to make on an empty board going into turn 3, since Paladin is almost forced to go for it and tends to lose complete control if your 6 drop is anything good. Venomous Scorpid also gets deleted by the Fishing Pole which feels very, very bad– Paladin can feel good about their position if they actually get to kill multiple Rogue minions with the Rod and get away with it. Goody Two-Shields is sticky sure but feels super medium into any kind of weapon attacks + Prize Plunderers or Blackjack Stunners. The only lucky thing for the Goody Two-Shields is that it can be used as an extremely high-pressure tool on empty boards, especially whenever it can threaten to kill our turn 3 minion and instantly reset the shield. This matchup is super weird– there are so many turns of “wait, do they have it? Cuz if they don’t have it I just win, and if they do have it I just lose…can I play around it?”
Ideal Turn 4 Plays:
Paladin: Cariel Roame, two 2 drops
Rogue: Sparkjoy Cheat + Blackjack Stunner, Kazakus
Another weird whiff-turn from Paladin, they don’t have many slammer 4 drops that they want to cast– Blessing of Kings is going to run into the same problem as Blessing of Authority where it just gets annihilated by Blackjack Stunner. Cariel Roame feels like the best option because, like the Underlight Angling Rod, it is one of the few Paladin ways to interact with the Rogue’s board right away, playing through Secrets and calculatedly triggering Ambushes and Bamboozles and then making a second, good attack that cleans it up. Cariel Roame triggering Ambush and just gobbling up the 2/3 Poisonous feels very bad. Thankfully Rogue’s turn 4s are often very, very good here– now we don’t have to spend our whole turn casting Secret + Blackjack Stunner if we are forced to, and can start to cast multiple cards in a turn and try to set up the Corner Turning Play. Kazakus into good Golems (like Poisonous Fireballs and Rush Copy) often demands a particular answer from Paladin, and even Kazakus can get Bamboozled up into a 7-drop while still generating those banger Geo-dudes.
Ideal Turn 5 Plays:
Paladin: More Filler, waiting for Hammer of the Naaru, Ogremancer (though not all versions play this)
Rogue: Kazakus Golems, Coin Jandice, Blackjack Stunner a Nerubian or leftover Goody Two-Shields
From turn 4, even turn 3, and on, Rogue really, really wants to just keep the board clear against Paladin. Making sure that they never have a minion in play to untap and buff and attack with right away acts as a double-measure of insurance alongside Blackjack Stunners, meaning they can’t even play their pump spell if they wanted to. In general if Rogue can keep the board clear once and actually have a board of their own, the game becomes extremely manageable. But up until turn 4-5 it can be pretty hard to keep things clear, and realistically now is when it must be done. If Paladin can ever protect multiple minions with their buffs and weapons and taunts going into turn 5+, the game is doomed for Rogue as they are about to take too much damage and need to answer too many problems. Paladin’s MO is to stuff the board if they can while narrowly not getting blown out, and Rogue’s MO is to wipe it all away. But when they can’t wipe it away, instead just daring Paladin to go all-in on a soon-to-be-sapped-mans, Kazakus and Jandice are the best things to do to start shifting the structure of the board in Rogue’s favor.
Ideal Turn 6 Plays:
Paladin: Hammer of the Naaru
Rogue: Jandice, Tenwu-ing Golems, casting every card in their hand and cleaning things up
Hammer of the Naaru tends to be a borderline expected play every time on turn 6. It costs enough that it will linger in hand until it’s time and is almost always the best thing Paladin can do on 6. But just like everything else, the Taunt Elemental can be sapped into oblivion and the Weapon charges can be battled back at by having Golems and Jandice minions in play alongside Bamboozles. At this point Rogue hopes to have maintained control enough to a point that this play from Paladin isn’t even good, but when Paladin can just slam Hammer and start punching you in the face, it tends to mean an Alexstrasza is coming and you better hope for Lifesteal Golems, Taunts from Jandice, or your own Alex if you were on the play. If Rogue can go into this turn at a healthy life total (realistically, at least 3 hits from Hammer and an Alex away, so 18+) the game tends to be a sealed deal. If Rogue is low and the Taunt is actually going to be a problem or protects yet another hit from little minions on the side, Paladin should feel good.
Turns 7+ are more of the same– Rogue tries to run Paladin out of cards or establish a lockdown on the board while healing out of range of dying to random Conviction Bursts, Weapon attacks, and Dragon Breaths. Hopefully Rogue has bricked out all of the Paladin’s options and they are forced to cast a Pump Spell and give up the game. Again, despite some complaints with the metagame, this matchup is kinda really fun. I hope some changes come to fix some of the more obtuse cards in the meta like Incanter’s Flow / Refreshing Spring Water and maybe even Crabrider, and if we do see these changes, then Paladin will get even easier for Rogue. I suppose these changes might actually mean that Paladin goes back to Secrets, which is a harder matchup, and that Mage goes to Ping Mage and that happens to be rough, but until then, we will scrap.
Thanks again for reading, I appreciate all the love and feedback on these articles and my endless words, but most importantly, I hope you learned something.
Get out there and good luck, gamers.