Rogue's (Crystal) Core and Flex Slots
Have you ever wanted to play Hearthstone without the mess of having to interact with your opponent? Have you ever wanted to cast otherwise unplayable cards without the rest of the Fireside Gathering laugh at you? If so, I've got the deck for you.
Crystal Rogue is one the most popular decks on the ladder, and according to the most recent Vicious Syndicate Data Reaper Report, it makes up about 8% of the metagame. Your goal with Crystal Rogue is to protect your enablers, complete the quest, and tempo out with one-mana 5/5s. The decks strength comes from the inability for your opponent to interact on your turn and how quickly your quest can come together.
Settling on a build, however, can be a bit tricky since there are many lists out there. The core is mostly established but there are plenty of flex slots.
The Caverns Below/ Crystal Core: This is the only real way to win a game. Don't mulligan this card ever and generally play it on turn one. The only real exception to that rule is if you know early which minion you will be bouncing and you need to get on the board fast.
Preparation: Mana reduction is the most important part of the deck. This speeds up your combo by a turn and can swing almost any game. I usually save this for the Crystal Core, but if you are under pressure, you may have to use it to buy time with Fan of Knives or Vanish
Shadowstep: The other other powerful mana reducer and accelerator for your quest count. Saving the cost reduced minion to play on the same turn as Vanish can set up some great value.
Gadgetzan Ferryman/Youthful Brewmaster: Your bread and butter bouncers. Each one of these adds another count to your quest while disrupting the board with a decent body and an additional Battlecry effect.
Mimic Pod: This is one of the more high variance cards in the deck, but for one card, it sets up your Quest well. Hitting an important minion or one of your mana reducers can swing a game in your favor.
Fire Fly: The most durable minion you have. The early bodies and your hero power are a great team to contest the board and the back up Flame Elemental gives you a back door to the Quest.
Glacial Shard: A mandatory counter to aggressive strategies. This deck is great at destroying a wide variety of small threats but has issues dealing with their larger minions. Shard gives you a repeatable out to that and deals with equipment. This is your most important minion for the Hunter and Pirate Warrior matchups, return it to your hand and don't let it die.
Patches the Pirate/Southsea Deckhand/Stonetusk Boar: Charge minions are what actually kill your opponent once you have your core online. Save these until your Crystal Core is in play unless you have to play them as removal1, the few points of early damage will not matter.
Novice Engineer: The best enabler despite being more expensive. Going through your deck while counting up your Quest is an easy way to get a quick combo. Many of your cards do the same thing, so any card draw is great.
Vanish: Initially, I was skeptical about this card, but it has been extremely powerful. Resetting the board and putting the enablers back in your hand has been a game changing effect. Preparation let's you do that so early that some decks just can't race your Quest.
Swashburglar: The enablers that net you a card in the process are the best. The random cards usually turn up something pretty playable and this one grabs you Patches too. It's one of the more threatening cards to return in the slower matchups, and against Pirate Warriors, the Warrior cards are great at disrupting them.
Bilefin Tidehunter: This is my taunt minion of choice. The extra body is great once Crystal Core is down, it protects itself, and let's you return it to your hand to keep around something.
Fan of Knives: This is a replaceable slot for another piece of interaction but I like that it cycles and deals with boards that get too wide. This could be Eviscerate to deal with larger minions and give you some reach later in the game.
Igneous Elemental: Doesn't work well with your return effects, but gives you two counts into your quest alongside a solid body. Works well with Fire Fly to back door the quest with Flame Elemental.
Shieldbearer: A solid taunt body but I don't see myself switching in this for the Bilefin. If you are looking for an extra taunt, however, this could be your guy.
Eviscerate: A suitable replacement for Fan of Knives and a much more versatile answer. Eviscerate doesn't let you thin your deck but it serves as reach if you are running low on chargers.
Edwin VanCleef: Not as good in this deck compared to the Miracle version, but it can still be a large threat in the early game. He does fall off in the late game but getting control of the early game to set up quest with a healthy life is very important.
Moroes: While he doesn't help you assemble your Quest, once on board Moroes just takes over the game.
Bluegill Warrior: Bluegill Warrior can take the Bilefin slot if you are finding yourself against a more controlling meta. Swapping out a taunt obviously makes you more vulnerable but the burst can be worth it.
Doomsayer: On the flip side, Doomsayer is a card which can be brought in if you need extra help against aggro. Gaining seven on turn two isn't bad and clearing the board against an unsuspecting opponent is game breaking. He also synergizes with Glacial Shard and Vanish to ensure a tempo swing. The downside of course, is that Doomsayer is not the card you want to see post-quest. That said, you may decide that you don't need help at that point and a dead draw is worth the trade-off.
Eater of Secrets: With the number of Mages and Paladins now taking to the ladder, Eater of Secrets is a powerful choice. Against Paladin he can contest Hydrologist draws early and buy you some time. Against Mages, he can eat Counterspells or Ice Blocks to swing games where a Mage may think they were safe.
The crabs (Golakka Crawler / Hungry Crab): Crystal Rogue's aggro matchups generally rest on a knife's edge. One or both of these crabs can go a long way to stabilizing and bouncing them is a special sort of fun.
Wisp: The cheapest but lowest impact bounce target which becomes a strong tempo play if you have to cast Crystal Core on low mana. Wisp is playable, what a world!
Coldlight Oracle: This is a potential swap for Mimic Pod. Coldlight swaps the potential downside of Mimicking a poor target for giving your opponent some cards. In most lists Pod gets the nod but if you are including more tech cards then Coldlight gives you more chances to find them.
Crystal Rogue has many positive matchups on the ladder right now. Any of the control decks have a very hard time killing you before your quest comes online and takes over. The aggro decks are a tougher time, but you can still race them, even without interaction. I highly recommend this strategy for the ladder as it has the most powerful solitaire in the game.