If you’ve spent any time on ladder in the last two months, you’ve undoubtedly run into the Miracle Rogue deck. It’s a combo setup with aggro potential that utilizes Gadgetzan Auctioneer to cycle through cards until it finds the specific combo pieces it’s looking for. These pieces are generally two Shadowsteps and Leeroy Jenkins. The combination of cards allows a rogue to deal 18 damage, plus whatever weapons and minions they have access to on that turn. In conjunction with Eviscerates, SI:7 Agents, Cold Bloods and other damaging spells and minions, the deck’s agenda is to destroy you in one massive burst of damage.
First thing’s first. Similar to Zoo Warlock, sometimes Miracle Rogue just wins. Sometimes the rogue opens up with Gadgetzan Auctioneer, Preparation, The Coin and Conceal. If your deck is slower, that almost assuredly spells death. This is not a situation that can be countered. The best response to it is a series of deep breaths, a cold beverage, and the knowledge that somewhere a Miracle Rogue is dying at the hands of a Freeze Mage. That scenario is not what we’re going to focus on. Here, we’ll talk about what you can do in order to win.
In the early going, Miracle Rogue is actually sort of susceptible to being overrun. Most Miracle Rogue players are going to aggressively mulligan for a Gadgetzan Auctioneer, as it’s the cornerstone of their win condition. It’s possible to win without him, but it requires a lot of luck, as Miracle Rogue features a lot of utility cards that don’t to much without their corresponding pieces. If they do go hard for Gadgetzan Auctioneer, they might toss away a lot of their early removal. That’s great if you’re playing a more aggressive, charge based druid and the rogue in question does not expect it. It also helps out aggressive mages, since they’re less common right now than their control based counterparts. Zoo Warlocks don’t benefit as much from this as common consensus right now is to always mulligan under the impression you’re playing Zoo, and not Handlock.
Assuming they do end up with a hand full of early game options, you can expect a few different things. SI:7 Agent and Earthen Ring Farseer comprise the majority of Miracle Rogue’s early game board presence. Both serve fairly straightforward purposes and feature stat spreads that put them beyond the reach of one damage hero powers. We’ll take an in-depth look at each one below.
Earthen Ring Farseer: This neutral minion’s inclusion is a nod to mirror matches and fights against aggressive decks such as Face Hunter. It’s designed to give Miracle Rogue wiggle room, while also providing a turn three drop. If combined with Shadowstep, it offers even more healing and at a discounted rate of mana. Expect to see two in the standard variation of deck. Skilled players will either use it early, or late when they fear they’re in range of enemy combos. While it can be irritating to see Shadowsteps provide up to nine points of healing off of one Earthen Ring Farseer, remember. Every Shadowstep not used with Leeroy Jenkins is six less damage you’ll be taking. Miracle Rogue has a high, but finite amount of damage. If you can weather it, you can often times force your opponent to die in fatigue with no cards in their hand.
SI:7 Agent: Toast (as Amaz calls him) is a flexible, super irritating minion capable of swinging boards thanks to his ability to deal two points of direct damage. He is the actual bane of Zoo Warlock because he comes in, kills a Flame Imp and is then a 3/3 on the board. He, like Earthen Ring Farseer, can be Shadowsteped and used as a yo-yo to deal direct damage. You can generally expect to see him come out in the early or late game, in order to maximize his combo effect. If SI:7 Agent is ever played without the combo, it’s a clear tell that your opponent is not in a good spot. Some common ways to see him come out:
- Turn 2: The Coin -> SI:7 Agent
- Turn 3: Backstab -> SI:7 Agent
- Turn 4: Deadly Poison -> SI:7 Agent
In truly dire situations, Preparation can be used to activate his combo, but you can generally feel good about that as it’s one less card to be used with Gadgetzan Auctioneer. If this rogue comes out in the midgame, it’s usually a sign that your opponent does not have either Gadgetzan Auctioneer or Conceal.
Removal: The real reason Miracle Rogue excels is the rogue’s powerful suite of cheap removal. Backstab and Eviscerate are both amazing spells. Shiv, while not necessarily used for removal, can be boosted with Bloodmage Thalnos. Fan of Knives is a similar case. It doesn’t generally clear the board, but against low HP minions it can be brutal, while also cycling a card. Deadly Poison and Blade Flurry serve as the Miracle Rogue’s primary method of removing boards full of moderately sized minions. Sap is also core, but generally reserved for removing big taunts while lining up the finishing barrage. If you can draw out Saps early, that’s a great sign.
The early game against Miracle Rogue stops at turn four. That’s the earliest they can drop Auctioneer (with The Coin) and Preparation into Conceal. In a perfect world, you’ve managed to clutter up the board enough to bait out the rogue’s cheap removal spells, and still have minions left in play. While it might suck to have everything you drop killed early on, it’s still better than the alternative, which is the rogue having all of that removal to use as card draw.
If the rogue does not have access to Auctioneer, or doesn’t want to drop it until it has conceal, turn five might look like an Azure Drake. It’s fairly beefy, cycles a card and is frankly too powerful to be left on the board. Unless you already have troops marshaled, you’ll be forced to decide between developing your board or spending mana to remove the Drake, assuming either are options based on your hand. In almost all situations, you should probably remove the Drake. Allowing a rogue to have spell power is a very bad idea. If you have to Swipe, you have to Swipe.
If the rogue does not have Conceal but drops Auctioneer regardless, it’s likely because they either have a second one in their hand, or earnestly believe you have no answer to it. That’s a huge assumption, and requires that they’ve somehow already seen most of your removal. Do whatever you can to get the thrifty goblin off the board and proceed to continue trying to develop your own agenda. A developed board is the best counter to an Auctioneer going down, especially if you’re playing as a druid. Being aggressive and putting the rogue on the defensive severely limits their options, and is really the only way to win unless you’re playing Freeze Mage, or circumstantially Control Warrior.
If the rogue is in truly dire straits and has neither Drakes nor Auctioneers, you might see an attempt to build an Edwin VanCleef. It’s risky, but if you don’t have a silence or kill card, VanCleef can absolutely win the game. Expect to see a lot of spells used in questionable ways, followed by the arrival of the Lord of the Defias Brotherhood. VanCleef’s a fairly sketchy option. It either pans out, or the rogue is down a lot of cards and can easily be beaten. It’s only a great play when it can be intelligently boosted to a 6/6 (just below Big Game Hunter range) and fits the mana curve organically.
Tomorrow, we’ll take a look through the end game stages of a Miracle Rogue match, discuss overall strategies, and what decks have the best odds against this cheesy menace. If you have suggestions, include them in the comments, or tweet me and I’ll try and include them in tomorrow’s article!