One Quest, Two Nerfs: is Quest Rogue Still Worth?
Quest Rogue has had a turbulent history, to say the least. The Caverns Below is one of those rare cards in Hearthstone to have received more than a single balance change, alongside Unleash the Hounds. It also stands out because, not only has it been weakened twice, it remains a powerful deck. From four to five minions required, and from granting 5/5 to 4/4, The Caverns Below has taken a beating from Team 5 since its release with Journey to Un’Goro.
Today we’re examining whether it’s wiser to keep bravely exploring The Caverns Below, or to bounce this deck back into Arcane Dust for good.
Quest Rogue was one of the most oppressively strong decks when it was released in April 2017. Playing four minions of the same name is pretty damn easy, even without newer ‘bounce’ cards like Sonya Shadowdancer. As is so often the case with Hearthstone’s strongest cards, you can safely assume that a lot of prominent YouTubers panned it on first sight. TrumpSC gave the Rogue quest a 1-star ranking, arguing that you’ll lose far too quickly if you play nothing for the first four turns. Kripparrian said the deck would be too ‘clunky’. You don’t need me to tell you how shockingly wrong they were.
Thanks to the sizeable community outcry, the quest was nerfed in July of that year. It largely fell off the meta radar after that. To my later regret, I disenchanted the quest for the full 1600 dust. The Quest nerf, in my opinion, contributed heavily to the overall weakness of Rogue in the Knights of the Frozen Throne era. Valeera really didn’t have a strong deck archetype until Sonya Shadowdancer came along in Kobolds and Catacombs. The nerf was without doubt necessary, but much of the community seemed to regard the deck as dead in the water as soon as it happened. It’s likely that these fears were overblown – as shown by how easily the deck came back into the limelight.
In the meta of The Witchwood, Quest Rogue stealthily returned to the mainstream. It was praised as one of the few decks that, with a bit of luck, could beat Cubelock. That was basically its raison d'être, pre-nerf – the anti-Cubelock. With the crushing of the Cube combo in the most recent balance patch, new opportunities have arisen for The Caverns Below.
Quest Rogue now shares a comfortable spot within the Rogue class. Aggro Rogue, Baku and non-Baku, sees a lot more play – with the Quest appearing in just under 12% of all Rogue decks. This is probably because aggro is easier to play than a complex control deck like Quest. Has Quest Rogue at last found its niche in the meta, without being overbearing or totally ignored?
The demise of Cubelock coincided with the second nerf to The Caverns Below. Overall, the change to 4/4 has not ruined the card. There are more ways than ever to play five of the same minion, as we have Flame Elementals galore – which crucially can be pulled en masse from your deck thanks to Elven Minstrel. I would attribute a huge part of the Quest Rogue renaissance to this plucky 3/2. It’s super powerful targeted card draw, which is an asset that the deck lacked prior to Kobolds and Catacombs.
Cheat Death, the only Rogue secret that’s remotely viable, is also a welcome new addition. It’s not totally necessary to run, but if you don’t own Sonya Shadowdancer, Cheat Death is an effective replacement on a budget. On that point, I don’t believe that Sonya is a must-have for Quest Rogue. If you don’t own her, don’t despair. I’ve had a reasonable amount of success without Sonya. Throw in Fire Fly and Igneous Elemental. Focus on bouncing your 1/2s with Cheat Death/Shadowstep/Youthful Brewmaster etc.; I like to run a couple Saps and Backstabs to control the board better in the meantime.
In some situations, 4/4 is better than 5/5. It’s far more effective against Priest, a class that is currently on the rise due to their power to Silence. Your 4/4s are truly permanent – the ubiquitous Spellbreaker cannot harm your tokens once the Crystal Core has gone off. Priest rose to counter Cubelock, using Mass Dispel and Silence, and is now very effective against Hadronox Druid (the new Cubelock). Quest Rogue beats Priest hands down, and can hold off other control decks with aplomb. The deck falls down when it comes against aggro.
You have a few options when faced with a lot of Paladins/aggro Rogues/Token Druids. To slow down their early tempo, run Backstab. Wax Elemental is a powerful showstopper against their small early minions, and you may even be able to complete the quest with them. If not, save the waxy ones for when you complete the Quest – their Divine Shield and Taunt may protect you from your opponent’s final push for face damage in the mid- to late-game. Vicious Scalehide is an interesting option, emphasizing board control and life gain. It’s likely you’ll have to choose between running Fire Fly/Igneous Elemental and Wax Elemental/Vicious Scalehide. The choice comes down to whether you’re afraid of aggro or not.
Don’t give up on Quest Rogue. It’s hugely fun to play, and is certainly no longer unfun to play against. I would go as far as to say it’s balanced, at long last. It’s very flexible with its choice of cards, as a quick Google of the many Quest Rogue options reveals. Head once more into those caverns, and don’t look back!