Howdy gamers, Mullahooagain.
I know how much the People, myself included, appreciate and want super specific super deep matchup guides. Having come from Magic this idea was sort of a thing over there but still not enough, still not truly broken down in that Good way, mostly because Magic had sooo many matchups coming at you in a given tournament setting– Hearthstone has this really interesting quality about it where you actually only play against a few decks and your turns are hopefully very methodical and mappable, especially with only 30 card decks. Standard right now has kinda devolved itself into a 5-6 class format: Priest, Paladin, Warrior, Mage, Rogue, Hunter, imo in that order for a tier-list. Shaman, Druid, Demon Hunter and Warlock are all but nonexistent, at least in high-high-elo like Top 500 Legend Range. The latter three definitely do pop up, but in my opinion Warlock is a worse Priest and Demon Hunter is a worse Mage or Paladin/Warrior depending on OTK or Tempo. Druid and Shaman feel like inferior and inferior-fun versions of the other legal decks: I think a lot of Spell / Ramp Druid players would like and experience a far greater winrate with Spell Mage, and Shaman players would honestly prefer the hybrid-heavy Hunter smorc. In reality you can safely extend every class into technically having a playable deck, but we will certainly focus in this article on the Big Guns: Priest Paladin Warrior Mage and The Mirror. Hunter and Warlock will have some sidelined reporting.
So, enough preamble. Here’s our list, we went 18-8 with it to Legend on May 1st and will be the list I’ll be running in the future or would absolutely recommend, regardless.
### 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
This evolved from, as you can see in its digital-pedigree-title, Heresy Rogue, which featured No Secret Passage and No Swindle and even No Octo-bot. This version here ended up appearing through the Field Contact Hybrid angle and landed on during our Legend Climb on May 1st. We were doing poorly with Miracle, the deck was still insanely hard, and the climb was Slow. We swapped guns to our well-loved Secret Rogue and made some swaps after having played with Swindle so much again– two Prep, a card I’d championed on paper before, and two Swindle, but still no Passage. We just slammed people, and I mean slammed. Of our 18-8 we went 3-6 to Mages but 4(!) of those losses were to double Incanter’s Flow doubletriple Refreshing Spring Water draws by like, turn five. This list otherwise felt so good and we 6(!)-0d Priest, which felt insane. We even went positive versus Warrior and now suddenly what the heck Rogue’s bad matchups were actually feeling pretty good, and we have a beyond-winnable fight versus Paladin, Mage, and even Miracle. Secret felt kinda nutty, so I’d recommend this adjustment to the metagame and I think this is probably the best list you can play.
On. To. The. Matchups!!!
Here’s what a good Priest deck looks like:
### Zyrios Priest
# Class: Priest
# Format: Standard
# Year of the Gryphon
# 2x (0) Desperate Prayer
# 2x (1) Draconic Studies
# 2x (1) Holy Smite
# 2x (1) Renew
# 2x (2) Condemn (Rank 1)
# 2x (2) Insight
# 2x (2) Shadow Word: Death
# 2x (2) Thrive in the Shadows
# 2x (3) Devouring Plague
# 2x (3) Hysteria
# 1x (3) Mindrender Illucia
# 2x (3) Palm Reading
# 2x (3) Venomous Scorpid
# 1x (4) Xyrella
# 1x (7) Soul Mirror
# 1x (9) Malygos the Spellweaver
# 1x (9) Ysera the Dreamer
# 1x (10) C’Thun, the Shattered
We (Rogue players) are the Aggro Deck. If Priest is given infinite time it will win through Illucia shredding your hand that has no counterplay and Maly into Ysera into C’Thun that blows out all of your board states once you’re done casting looping Jandices. Since we don’t have forever, we have to act.
Your basic game plan is to pressure Priest’s health with as difficult-to-clear board states as you can as early as possible to chip in damage, which ends up in forcing them to blow through their Heal where you can then actually OTK them or just suddenly 12-16 them over two turns from hand.
The major cards to play around are their Healing Sweepers, Xyrella and Apotheosis-Samuro, and Hysteria, the most broken removal spell printed in maybe literally ever. Soul Mirror also lingers from yesteryear and is, as always, insane.
Your major cards in this matchup are your Legends: Alexstrasza+Tenwu, Hanar, Mankrik, Kazakus, and Jandice. Discovered spells become very important to look for extra unexpected Wicked Stabs and things like Potion of Illusion to keep going.
Dirty Tricks, Mankrik, Sparkjoy Cheat, Jandice + Shadowstep on the coin.
We look for at least one Secret to go with Sparkjoy Cheat that we Desperately want to cast on turn 3 and draw a card. The rest is mostly just mulliganing away bad cards– we don’t want Prize Plunderers unless your hand is a very aggressive one where you can play him on 1, and we don’t want things like Alexstrasza or Wicked Stab or even Blackjack Stunner inside our openers. Your removal spells aren’t necessary for many many turns, so we try to look for some of our powerful Legends if we can get them down early and start getting value.
Ideal Turn 1 Plays:
Priest: Draconic Studies
They would love nothing more than to have to not cast a spell until one Hysteria on turn 6 for your Jandice– therefore it is up to us to make sure that doesn’t happen. The name of the game is Squeeze, and squeeze early. We however also don’t have any Turn 1 plays other than some bizarre combos like Prep Ambush Wand Thief, but traditionally with those combos you don’t just Rip on Priest and would rather save the Prep and Wand Thief. You’re the Aggro Deck, but we don’t have to go As Fast As Possible. Just relax but don’t let go.
Ideal Turn 2 Plays:
Priest: Nothing, Thrive in the Shadows Sometimes, doesn’t matter
Rogue: Ambush, Dirty Tricks, Coin Cheat/Mankrik if we have two. Sometimes Tempo Hanar.
Priest is just full of removal spells at this point and is now Waiting. Because of this we need to start working on our Draw Spells and committing to the board so that we can start doing a lot of stuff on the Priest’s critical weak-spot turns,5 & 6, where we can start doin’ the most. Ambush actually ends up working pretty well over Dirty Tricks on turn 2 because of Priest’s turn 3 play that bothers our Sparkjoy Cheat: Venomous Scorpid. If we Dirty Tricks on 2 and they play Scorpid on 3, our Sparkjoy Cheats and Mankriks both get targeted and trade with Scorpid, which we desperately do not want. None of Priest’s minions are ever allowed to attack in this matchup, whether for fear of Apotheosis or just that our Removal Spells are plentiful and those aren’t allowed to miss. In a weird way yes, Dirty Tricks is the best Secret in this matchup because there are so few creatures, on turn 2 it tends to be better to Ambush to match their 3 rather than play your best Secret thinking you’re doing the right thing.
Tempo Hanar is a legitimate option now in this deck because of the double Prep. Goofy starts like Coin Hanar Prep Dirty Tricks Pick Oh My Yogg Shadowstep Hanar are… well, real! This can often go unanswered since Hysteria doesn’t work and Holy Smite isn’t enough. You can make this play on turn 1 and 2, but most likely your On The Play Hanars that you found after your mulligan are also playable with Prep. The inclusion of Devouring Plague from Priest actually hurts this matchup a reasonable deal because it insta-clears our 3 mana cards, but we’ll get there.
Coin 3-Drop is a reasonable play so long as you have the second one, but not for Venomous Scorpid. In my opinion Scorpid is a low priority card in this matchup early, but bananas late. It doesn’t shove much damage on turn 3+ and the decision on what you need to discover wants to be made on turn 9, not turn 3 in this matchup. Double Sparkjoy Cheat draws get Hysteria’d, but this can also be outplayed by putting in a Bamboozle, which is likely if you cast double-Cheat and drew cards off of both them, putting two Secrets in. Never cast this card unless you can draw the card, by the way– again, we are the Aggro Deck here, but just chill we’re chilling.
Ideal Turn 3 Plays:
Priest: Venomous Scorpid, Palm Reading, Devouring Plague
Rogue: Sparkjoy Cheat, Mankrik
Priest now begins to start churning its great holy wheels in the mud. Venomous Scorpid gets extremely annoying if you’re on the Coin and they get to cast theirs first– now your Mankriks and Sparkjoy Cheats Just Die, and we really want our Value 3 Drop to survive to start attacking. We can often have random hands of Prize Plunderers that can hopefully tag any Scorpid down the line, but seeing it on 3 is rough. This is why Ambush on 2 best counters Scorpid on 3 from Priest. Palm Reading ultimately doesn’t matter to us, much like many of Priest Plays– they just go and find another card and don’t do anything, while our plays still Must Be Made– no card from Priest is knowable like that in what they discover or get from Insight, and most of our plays are still just Best and must be made. Palm Reading you go “oof, unlucky,” and make all the same plays EXCEPT keeping in mind that Soul Mirror can now cost 6.
Devouring Plague is a card you might not always see in Control Priest and moreso in the Flesh Giant Priest but this card slams all of our 3 Drops cleanly, but often meaning they don’t gain the life, which is nice. Nothing you can do about it, just hope they don’t have it. Random Prep Secret Wand Thiefs can help you overcome the Health requirement (4) to beat it, though, which is worth considering in some hands.
Ideal Turn 4 Plays:
Priest: Removal Spells: Holy Smite, Hysteria, Devouring Plague
Rogue: Mankrik or Sparkjoy Cheat or Scorpid + Wand Thief, Kazakus, then Secret Swindle.
Priest is just reacting to your stuff now– their next bazillion turns are just going to be “can my hand add up to full-clear Rogue’s board?” We now enter Phase 2, the hardest of the game for us Rogues: how can we Complete The Squeeze while not running out of resources but also not going Too Fast and getting blown out? This first turn, turn 4, is often quite easy– your plays are still straightforward and there aren’t many decisions between cards to play. Since we don’t have Secret Passage it makes this weird turns a little easier which is great, no longer needing to decide if we should Passage on 4 or Just Go With This etc. Kazakus almost always picks 5 mana Golems here, and of those Golem choices you prefer things like Stealth Copy to beat Hysteria, and Divine Shield +2/+2 Your Minions to start Beating down super hard and resilient to damage-based sweepers like Renew Xyrella and Condemn + Holy Smites. There are times when 10 mana Stealth Copy Golem can just be a sudden OTK if you know they are out of 10 Heal Xyrella Range and have already cast their Soul Mirror.
Ideal Turn 5 Plays:
Priest: C’Thun spells (6/6, Deal 7, Kill Your Guy, Deal 3 Sweeper) and Condemn clears
Rogue: Kazakus Golem, Coin Jandice Shadowstep, then 3+2s (Scorp + Secret, etc)
Priest now gets their first opportunity, if they didn’t Palm Reading a C’Thun Spell, to start threading in those 5 mana clunkerchunkers. A lot of Priest’s game plan is being able to find turns to “take off” and not have to spend their turn killing the board. They use these turns to cast their Insights and random Dragons and pretend to Apotheosis something, which often just ends the game against us (less-so now that we have Blackjack Stunners and can let them go back to 30 and still win). Rogue’s business is making sure the Priest’s ONLY good play is to cast random minions and durdle-draws. If Rogue gets to Squeeze up a turn where now we can “take it off,” meaning we have enough of a threatening board and can now start casting random Swindles and looking to assemble our big bursts of damage ASAP, that’s what we’re looking for. The matchup really is, as most matchups in Hearthstone are, about making a turn So Strong that your opponent can get rid of all of it, and now it comes back to your turn and you’ve Stuck An Advantage and can now double down. Priest fights to do this starting about Now, as things can start to get spooky and out of hand for them without Soul Mirror, Xyrella, or Apotheosis Samuro, also things the Rogue can afford to play around. These turns are the really tough ones from both sides because a single misstep or over-extension often means GG– this tug of war is very difficult to navigate and ultimately the fact that Priest only has to Answer makes this matchup slightly in their favor– if Rogue stops Squeezing for even a turn, Priest can normally grab hold and get one giant Sweeper off that keeps them in the driver’s seat. Rogue’s thankful out is that we Do have the opportunity to Alex+Tenwu them, but Priest comes right back with the Illucia counterplay, ultimately keeping it Priest-favored in the super-late-game.
Rogue’s best play by a wide margin against almost any deck in the game is Coin Jandice Shadowstep her, looking to do it again and again. There are a ton of goofy-strong 5 drops right now and many with Stealth, Deathrattles, Divine Shields, and Card Draw. You really only need one or two of your Jandice minions to survive and suddenly you start destroying your opponent’s life total, executing one of the first and strongest real squeezes in the matchup. Hysteria has to be deftly maneuvered around if you can, but at the end of the day Hysteria Will Do as Hysteria Does. A common counterplay to Hysteria with Jandice minions is to make the Biggest or Best One the fake, since often if it is the Real One you will kill not only your Ghosty One but others on your team as well. This game of next-leveling is always fun and hard and takes some Reading Of Your Opponents, so good luck!
Ideal Turn 6&7 Plays:
Priest: Xyrella + Desperate Prayer + Hero Power, Palm-Read-Apotheosis + Samuro, Palm-Read Soul Mirror. Most importantly, Kill All Of Your Everything, hopefully.
Rogue: Shadowstep Jandice, Hanar + Lots of Secrets to Protect vs Sweepers.
Turns 6 and 7 are roughly the same from both sides. This is when Priest can start casting their sweepers if they’ve been fortunate enough to get a cost reduction on a key piece, whether Insight drawing Xyrella or Samuro or if Palm Reading reduced a Soul Mirror, some Condemns and Holy Smites, etc. Again, not much of this is really play-around-able from Rogue since you’ll never really know, so instead it becomes You Must Always Play Around It. Start building your boards to have more health than attack so Soul Mirror doesn’t clear you, and if you have Bamboozle, start putting your Big and Stupid minions on the Far Left so Soul Mirror triggers that Attack Trigger on Bamboozle first, giving you an 8 Mana Minion that survives through to your turn. Otherwise the Rogue hopes to get Even Stickier with looping Jandice Again and trying to squeeze in damage, or a Hanar that can find Oh My Yogg + Prep a Counterspell + things like Open the Cages to pressure. These two turns are about Back to Back Big Squeeze from Rogue or Back to Back Big Answer from Priest, where both sides are vying to come out on top for turns 8 and 9 so they can start slamming The End.
Ideal Turn 8 & 9 Plays:
Priest: Ysera, Malygos, IlluciaGG
Rogue: Alexstrasza Shadowstep her and Tenwu, Huge Hanar Turns, Triple Wicked Stab
This is where, more or less, this matchup is won or lost. In a weird way the game can have gone viciously back and forth and end up here with both sides panting and at full health, and none of it can matter– Priest and Rogue still have ways to win the game no matter how the first 7 turns went, which is kinda insane. Rogue can have discovered another two or three burn spells and are sitting on 32 points of Damage in hand over two turns, and Priest can simply slam Illucia or get a huge Draw 7 Malygos when they aren’t dead on board and Rogue’s resources crumble into sand. Rogue’s position transitions to Phase 3 which is: how can I kill Priest over exactly Two Turns while still not getting Apotheosised or having them heal Just, just out of range? Priests Phase 3 is now “can I ever cast a big stupid Dragon, will I just die? And where the fr*ck is my Illucia holy I’m so unlucky.” Count up your maths, rub your hands together, and play tight in these last turns– the last thing you wanna do is fight a hard-fought 20 minute game just to make a mistake at the finish line.
Well holy moly this ended up being a lot bigger than I thought in terms of words so I will stop here, beginning and ending with Priest. If things don’t change too much or you guys like this kind of material and have any feedback, lemme know and I’ll make sure to rip the other guides. I’m not sure if they’ll be harder or easier to write, but we’ll find out!
Thanks again y’all and I’d love to see you in chat @ www.twitch.tv/Mullahoo
I’ll be streaming today and most weekdays from 12-6pm EST!
Good luck and have fun!