Understanding Secret Rogue: The Guide | By mcmariners

Secret Rogue Guide

Firstly I’d like to introduce myself to everyone, my name is Logan or Mcmariners.

I have been playing card games competitively for close to 10 years. I have had success at the highest levels in Yu-Gi-Oh and have switched back to playing Hearthstone in the last year or so.

Lately I’ve been playing Secret Rogue, I have since become very attached to improving the deck, and the overarching strategy behind the deck.

In this guide my goal will be to teach you how to think about Secret Rogue as a deck.
However many of the ideas in this guide are not unique to Secret Rogue and will help you improve at Hearthstone as a whole.

In September I finshed in Top 200 Legend.

My current Rank is #55 Legend.

Overall my Score with the Deck is 314-187 (63%)

The Deck

Penflinger

Initiate

“Burgle”

Don’t get baited!

I wanted to start off with this topic as I feel it’s the most important topic when it comes to Secret Rogue and most likely the reason why many people struggle to find consistent success with the deck.

Understanding the range of Secret Rogue is the first, and most important thing you should learn.

» It’s not

  • An All-In combo deck 
  • Completely reliant on Edwin/Questing Adventurer

» It is

  • Capable of being a Control deck 
  • Capable of being a Combo deck 
  • Capable of being a Tempo deck
  • It is all about understanding each matchup and what your range is with each hand.

» Now, let's talk about range.

Range in hearthstone can be easily explained, but is often misunderstood. 

As Secret Rogue your range is much wider than most decks/classes. 

If you need to play a late game value style, you want to be using your shadow steps as value generators on something like EVIL Miscreant, and more importantly you want to choose wisely with your discovers.

Cards such as Tog Scheme/Potion Of Illusion/Dragon’s Hoard as well Cobalt Spelkin/Onyx Magescribe from Lackeys can generate you so much value and longevity that you can easily become favored vs slower, value decks like Priest. 

If you need to play for tempo and survivability vs a deck like face Hunter you can utilize your cheap cards for tempo rather than value, such as Step + Stunner, Prep + Evis, Backstabs and even just playing a solo Wand Thief or Stunner for tempo can help you keep pace with aggressive decks. 

If you need to be the aggressor and end the game quickly you can play towards creating a big Edwin or Questing with cards like Preparation/Shadowstep/Backstab. These types of turns may often be viewed as “all in”, but in reality you’re only making these plays in specific match ups or when you’re forced to. 

You do not want to get baited into thinking Questing/Edwin are your only ways to win, they are powerful but can be easily punished by multiple classes such as Mage/Warrior/Priest. 

This is why understanding your range, and your opponents range is important in order for you to properly adjust the style of game you’re going to play vs each deck and class. 

Card Choices

Let’s spend a little time going over some popular and unconventional card choices in Secret Rogue.

We can break down each list, and then some optional cards.

» My List

Penflinger By including a single copy of Penflinger in your Rogue you give yourself a ton of inevitability vs any match up that goes long. In addition to this, Penflinger also happens to perform well vs faster aggro deck as the 1 damage ping is very effective at cleaning up wide boards of small minions. Penflinger is NOT the focal point of the deck, but more so a powerful 1-card support engine that pairs well with Secret Passage providing us a significant amount of extra reach.

Wandmaker Another card that performs well vs any match up that goes long. Finding an additional copy of Secret Passage, a copy of Dragon’s Hoard or even a Tog Scheme vs a control deck can change the course of the game. Much like Penflinger, Wandmaker also proves to be valuable against faster aggro decks, as it’s an early game minion you can play for tempo and potentially find removal such as Plague of Madness (also great vs Bomb Warrior) or Brain Freeze.

» Vicious Syndicate Initiate List

Intrepid Initiate – Vicious Syndicates list opts to include two copies of Intrepid Initiate. While this card will certainly help you establish a strong early game and fight for board vs aggressive decks, both Penflinger and Wandmaker are powerful against faster decks as well. They also prove to be very powerful in the late game, where Initiate struggles to find any success after turn 1.

Secret Ratio This list also opts to use a x2 Dirty Tricks x2 Ambush x1 Plagiarize ratio. While x2 Dirty Tricks is very standard among all lists, the Ambush/Plagiarize ratios are often interchangeable. In this list we see the second copy of Ambush rather than the second copy of Plagiarize because this list lacks ways to capitalize off stealing your opponents cards and instead focuses on sticking a board and playing heavily for tempo.

» Vicious Syndicate “Burgle” List

Dragon’s Hoard   This serves as an activator for Vendetta/Underbelly fence. Against faster decks Dragon’s hoard is too slow and inconsistent as a card by itself, however vs slower decks hoard can not only find value as a “Burgle” activator, the legendary you grab can prove to be very impactful as you will have plenty of time to utilize your pick.

Vendetta Vendetta can make up for some of the tempo you lose by playing Dragon’s Hoard, while also serving as a free and efficient removal spell to combo with Edwin/Questing. Great vs Aggressive and Tempo based matchups, poor against decks that do not rely on sticking a board early, such as Mage/Druid/Priest.

Underbelly Fence – Similar to Vendetta this also helps make up for some of the tempo loss of the “Burgle” effects. However Underbelly is a bit more polarizing, vs board based decks this card can completely swing a game in your favor. However the drawback is that you still have to pay 2 mana for it and it’s another liability vs slower match ups. In addition to this both Vendetta and Underbelly have consistency issues attached with them which can cause them to be “anchors” in your hand if you do not have an activator.  

» Possible Inclusions

Cult NeophyteCult Neophyte by itself proves to be a mostly underwhelming card, however paired with a Shadowstep or partnered with a big Edwin/Questing can prove to be quite impactful in Secret Rogue. As the meta stands there is not enough Druid/Secret Rogue to justify Neophyte, although strong against Mage it’s other favorables are just not seen enough right now to justify the inclusion of Neophyte.

Frozen Shadoweaver Similar to Neophyte, Shadoweaver is just an alright card on it’s own, but paired with a Shadow Step or played after an Edwin/Questing turn can swing weapon-based matchups heavily in your favor. Once again though, while Demon Hunter is seeing a significant amount of play other weapon-based match ups such as Bomb Warrior and even weapon rogue remain powerful, but underplayed in the current meta.

» “Tech” cards

In short, “tech” cards are almost always strictly wrong unless the following statements are true. 

Does the meta call for it? 

Does it actually swing the game? 

Does the “tech” card work with your deck?

What is the “tech” card replacing? 

How embarrassing is the card by itself? 

If you want to better understand why a tech card may be good or bad in your deck, I encourage you to read J_Alexander_HS’ in depth reddit guide “The Tech Card Trap”.

https://www.reddit.com/r/CompetitiveHS/comments/ico1yj/the_tech_card_trap/

Playing From Your Opponents POV

Playing from your opponents POV/Perspective is a misunderstood and often not used strategy when navigating through games of Hearthstone. 

Understanding this concept well, and being able to understand how to utilize it will greatly improve your understanding of tempo as well as help you create pressure and “tension” in games.

Playing from your opponents perspective is NOT the same as “playing around cards”. 

Playing from your opponent’s perspective is exactly how it sounds – 

Imagine yourself playing your opponent’s hand from their point of view, without the knowledge of your own hand.

» How does this help us & How is this different from “playing around cards”?

In short, “playing around cards” is usually something you earn, once you’re already ahead in a game. 

Playing around cards while you’re behind in a game is a quick way to fall further behind, when you’re already winning or in a favorable position, in many circumstances you can give yourself the option to play around cards such as board clears/burst lethals/created by cards ect.

» The Breakdown

At a base level when you play a game of Hearthstone, most players are thinking about what they themselves can do. 

When you start thinking from your opponents POV, then you can really start thinking about what YOU can do. 

What YOU can do, is not always what you’re capable of doing right now, but what you are threatening.

» Example

If you have a starting hand of Shadow Jeweler Hanar/Questing Adventurer/Secret Passage and Miscreant going first without the Coin. 

You might think to yourself – “wow this hand sucks, I have no Secret for Hanar and no good ways to combo my Questing Adventurer or EVIL Miscreant” 

You might also fall into the trap of holding out on your Hanar until you find a Secret or hold out on your Questing Adventurer until you find cheap spells to combo with it. 

However, when you start thinking and playing from your opponents perspective, a Shadowjewler Hanar on turn 2 is immediately threatening the option to play a secret while developing + protecting your Hanar and potentially snowballing a game to a victory. 

From your Point Of View, Hanar is a vanilla two mana 1/4 that is currently offering you no value or benefit other than being a 1/4 Minion, that’s because you can see your “hole cards” and know you do not have a Secret to combo with the Hanar. 

From your opponents Point Of View, they could and in most cases should assume that you’re going to follow up your Hanar with a Secret. Which from their POV could snowball the game out of their control because of Hanars “infinite” card generation and potential to protect itself with Secrets.

» How does this help us?

In this example, our opponent may be forced to deviate from their original plan (Drawing cards/Developing Minions/Ramping) and instead feel forced to use one or more removal options to deal with our Hanar. 

Let’s say they do, if our opponent uses a card like Bladestorm/Shield Slam/Both Parts of Twin Slice or Eviscerate, that means they did not develop onto the board and therefore the board is now clear for both sides. 

This allows us to develop our Questing Adventurer on an empty board directly after our opponent used removal on our Hanar, even if it is only a 2/2 it’s unlikely they have a way to deal with it now and we have the option to tempo it out and potentially steal the game. 

So now our opponent is going to do what they wanted to do the previous turn and develop their overall gameplan, (Draw/Ramp or Play a Minion).

Now, this leaves us with Questing Adventurer alongside Secret Passage to combo together to create a threatening board.

In conclusion, we were able to take a hand (Hanar/Questing/Passage) that on the surface looked poor from our point of view and spin it into a powerful Questing set-up by playing from our opponents perspective.

Matchups

The Mulligan for Secret Rogue may seem obvious to someone who is just picking up the deck. “Look for Questing/Edwin and 1 Drops!” however in many matchups it’s a lot more complicated than that.

This mulligan guide will be slightly different from most, instead of giving out arbitrary lists of keeps and tosses, I’m going to help you better understand what you want to do in each match up, and what cards can help you accomplish that. 

» Basics

  • Keep x1 Pharaoh Cat 
  • Keep Hanar (very good at creating tension in almost every match up, even without a secret)
  • Keep Edwin with the Coin

» VS Demon Hunter

My Win Rate 63% | HS Replay Win Rate 44%

The way we beat DH is by developing large minion based threats as well as generating Taunts/Heals and Sticky Minions. 

Most importantly look for ways to develop a big Questing Adventurer/Edwin and oftentimes Jandice Barov. 

Look for ways to generate Taunts/Healing/Freeze/Sticky Minions with cards like Wand

Thief/Pharaoh Cat/Hanar and EVIL Miscreant. These should be thought more of as supporting cards after or with an Edwin/Questing or Jandice. 

Synopsis

DH is one of the more difficult match ups, if not the worst match up when playing the more traditional “Burgle” list due the lack of viable targets for Vendetta/Underbelly to hit.

However, when using the Eviscerate/Penflinger/Initiate style of lists, this match up becomes much more winnable, if not even favored due to your ability to go over the top and close out games with burst rather than having dead minion removal sitting in your hand.

» VS Tempo Mage

My Win Rate 59% | HS Replay Win Rate 50%

The way we beat Mage is less defined than most match ups due to the amount of random card generation from both sides, however what we’re looking to do is maintain a steady flow of pressure ideally backed up by Rogue secrets to disrupt the mages “pop off” turns, generally turns 4, 5 or 6. 

We want to look for cards that can get us a sticky board while also generating us value in order to keep up with Mage’s card generation. The best way to do this is by getting chip damage early with Lackeys created by EVIL Miscreant as well as medium sized Edwin/Questing paired with small minions to make us less susceptible to Devolving Missiles. 

Our end game plan is often going over the top with Evis/Penflinger/Wand Thief and spells we stole with Plagiarize.

Synopsis

Mage is a very 50/50 match up due to the amount of unknown factors and random card generation. This matchup can be improved by including Cult Neophyte in your deck, however you will be weaker vs almost every other class.

» VS Libram Paladin

My Win Rate 74% | HS Replay Win Rate 54%

The way we beat Paladin is by disrupting their Libram chain by using Blackjack Stunner + Shadowstep for minions equipped with Libram of Wisdom. In addition to this, we want to be prepared to go long in this match up. If our Blackjack Stunners and Secrets come together we can easily outvalue, and out tempo the Paladin over time.

We want to look for early game tempo to keep pace with the strong early/mid game that Paladin has. If we can keep up in the early game, our Stunners will eventually come through to swing the game in our favor. 

Synopsis

Paladin is our best match up. Keep pace early and be aware of the potential Libram of Justice punishes on your Edwin or Questings. Another match up where cards like Penflinger/Eviscerate especially shine, they provide some inevitability that can be so powerful in longer drawn out games.

» VS Secret Rogue

The way we beat the mirror match is by doing everything we can to be the aggressor, rather than the reactor. The first person to stick a board backed up by a Plagiarize almost always wins this match up. In addition to this, look to take advantage of Rogue’s lack of healing, do not be afraid to switch towards a burn gameplan if your opponent has control of the tempo. 

Look for fast, proactive cards. Jandice/Miscreant are some of the strongest keeps in the mirror. Navigating through secrets is also a major skill in this match up, if your opponent hasn’t been fighting for board, do your best to minimize or completely negate the effects of their Dirty Tricks/Plagiarize. However, knowing when to “not care” about the opponents Plagiarize/Tricks can swing a game in your favor, your opponent only has so much mana they can spend each turn. If you can apply enough pressure they won’t have time to play all of the cards in their hand. 

Synopsis

The mirror match is often very skill testing and interesting, however there are many “non games” when a player sticks a board backed by a Plagiarize, there isn’t much you can do about those games except search for burn damage and Puzzle Box-like effects. This is another match up where the Eviscerate variants of Rogue will more often than not outshine the Burgle variants due to the lack of healing + the inconsistency of burgle-like effects in the mirror match.  

» VS Face Hunter

My Win Rate 68% | HS Replay Win Rate 62%

The way we beat Hunter is by making the best tempo play each turn OR by setting up a big Edwin/Questing assuming you have the means to play around Freezing Trap. 

Backstab + Miscreant are the best cards in this match up, Backstab can swing the early turns in your favor and allow you to stick some minions, while Miscreant can find multiple reactive Lackeys and the potentially game winning taunt Lackey. Do not be afraid to sacrifice value for tempo. Wand Thief/Stunners will often need to be played without their effect, Preparation will also often need to be used without a Questing or Edwin in order to protect your life total.

Synopsis

Hunter is a favorable matchup when played correctly. A massive downside to Hunter is their inability to generate cards that didn’t start in their deck, take advantage of this. You know every card in their deck and exactly what their range is. The Vendetta/Underbelly variants of Rogue will make this match up even more favorable than it already is.

» VS Guardian Druid

My Win Rate 56% | HS Replay Win Rate 46% 

The way we beat Druid is by sticking big minions early.

This is the easiest match up to mulligan for and the easiest matchup to navigate. Look for Edwin/Questing Adventurer. Conventionally strong cards like Miscreant and Backstab end up being too slow, and unusable vs Druid. You can almost never afford to get to the late game against Druid, their threats are big, fast and plentiful. 

Synopsis

Druids are scary. This is another very close match up and usually just comes down to whether or not you were able to develop a Questing/Edwin. Vendetta/Underbelly list’s are slightly worse in this match up due to the lack of early game minions from Druid. Cult Neophyte may also shine in this match up, if you go that route.

» VS Bomb Warrior

My Win Rate 61% | HS Replay Win Rate 45% 

The way we beat Bomb Warrior is with a constant stream of pressure while also generating ways to heal, taunt or freeze. 

Pharaoh Cat/Miscreant/Hanar/Wand Thief and Jandice are the most important cards in this match up. All of these cards are able to find us ways to Heal/Taunt/Freeze while also giving us some minion pressure. Edwin/Questing can still be powerful in this match up if navigated correctly, set yourself up to be strong against Bladestorm/Brawl and do not put all of your eggs in one basket unless it is absolutely necessary. 

Synopsis

Admittedly my win rate in this match up is probably higher than it should be, however I do strongly believe this matchup is much closer than many would think. Warrior is scary, but you will almost always find a turn against Warriors where you can take advantage of their lack of removal and lack of tempo (usually turns 2 and 4 when they want to play a Corsair Cache followed by a Wrench Caliber). If you can take advantage of those turns, you can stabilize and begin to search for Heals/Taunts and Freeze effects.

» VS Control Priest

My Win Rate 68% | HS Replay Win Rate 64% 

The way we beat Priest is by committing to a long term value gameplan. 

We need to force the game to go long against Priest, we will almost always outvalue and out pressure them over the course of a game. The games we lose against Priest are when we are forced to go all in on a Questing/Edwin. Be greedy. Use your discover effects wisely and with the intent of the game going on for many more turns. Priest has a million ways to Punish big boards, lethal set ups and “all-in” plays. Trust the process. 

Synopsis

Priest is a very favorable matchup, but may be very difficult to navigate. Stick to the game plan, force the game to go late. Penflinger/Eviscerate make this match up easier and gives you some inevitability.

» My Stats

» Game Replays

Socials and Coaching

Hopefully this guide was able to offer something to new, and experienced Secret Rogue players!

Check out these links!:

If you would like to further explore Secret Rogue I offer coaching for $10 an hour! Direct message me on Twitter if you are interested!

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