While not as popular as it once was, Midrange Hunter is still a very strong list that you are going to encounter during your time on ladder. As a result, you always want to have it in mind when you are planning on playing ranked. This guide will look at the deck and show how Oil Rogue, with its ample amounts of quick burst and strong removal, can out-tempo Hunter to come out with the victory.
When setting up to play Oil Rogue there are three routes you can take. You can either play a spell-heavy version that focuses on setting up the combo, a minion-heavy version that is all about board control, or you can play a version that packs more removal and healing to stall as much as possible. While the first two versions are stronger against midrange and control, the last version is powerful against aggro. You want to choose the list that fares well against what you see most, and the one you best understand. To help you make this decision, three lists have been linked below.
Face Hunter is more rare than Midrange these days, so you want to mulligan low just in case. Midrange is a deck that needs the board to win the game, and if they start out fast it is very hard to come back. While you do run a good amount of minions, most of them are for the middle turns. Only keep them if you already have a starting foundation, and throw everything back unless you have removal.
Cards to KeepBackstab Deadly Poison Eviscerate SI:7 Agent Fan of Knives
Bloodmage Thalnos can be kept with early spells like Backstab but it is too weak to keep on its own.
Blade Flurry is a strong keep with weapon buffs.
Piloted Shredder can be kept with a strong early curve and the coin.
Violet Teacher follows the same rules as Piloted Shredder.
How to Win
When playing Rogue you always need to balance your damage versus your board control, but that is even more important here. Midrange Hunter’s entire game hinges on them having access to the board, and you need to spend most of your time making sure they never get anything to stick around for a turn. That means always getting value out of your removal, and trying your best to only use your premium clears as tempo plays to keep your ahead on the board.
This is a game where you really need to make use of your damage. While you do have ways to extend the game, Hunter’s burst cards and hero power will eventually wear you down (especially if they get going early). Do everything in your power to make sure they are on the back foot, whether that means pushing with your board or setting up a huge dagger. Damage is the most important tool in this game, and you have a lot at your disposal. Use it when you can.
Early Game Strategy
The opening of this game is going to be all about removal. Midrange Hunter, due to its direct damage and hero power, builds faster than other midrange list in the game, and you need to challenge that list from turn one or risk falling behind. There are two modes in this game. In the first you are going to be more of a control deck, and in the second you will switch to tempo. These turns are strictly control, and your first priority should always be to get rid of what is on the board.
While you want to kill your opponent’s minions right away, you want to hold onto cheap spells if you can use them to trigger a turn three or four SI:7 Agent. For example, while you may want to Backstab your opponent’s two drop, taking an extra two damage is often worth the option of combining the spell with the agent to take down a Animal Companion or another small minion.
Fan of Knives is a very good clear that you should try to save for the right time. Most Hunter’s run a lot of small tokens in Haunted Creeper, Webspinner, Snake Trap and Unleash the Hounds. You may be tempted to use this early, but you generally want to only play this against one of the aforementioned threats or you have nothing else in your hand.
Look for early opportunities to get value out of Blade Flurry. It is easy to see this card as a late-game finisher (which it normally is) but here you want to use your removal to just keep Hunter’s minions or early push at bay. This is a great response to an early flood as well as things like Houndmaster.
While you typically only want to play Bloodmage Thalnos when you can get immediate value, the two drop legendary can be quite strong on an early empty board. This is because of fear. Most people will not leave a Bloodmage on the board because of the value it can give. This may then cause your opponent to clear the 1/1 rather than playing a minion of their own.
Note: Watch out for Desert Camel. While not every version of Hunter runs this card, you have no one drops to counter it with. That means you should at least have some sort of plan (or board presence) for turn three just in case.
You want to spend the middle turns of this game trying to take control of the board, which you can then use to build into your finishing damage. While Oil Rogue is a spell-based deck, you have a lot of minions at your disposal. This works to your advantage, because even one minion can end the game if you protect it with spells over a few turns.
Almost all Hunters these days run double Hunter’s Mark, which is something you want to play around if you can. The way to do this is to bait it out on a smaller minion (like Piloted Shredder or Azure Drake) before trying to stick something like Violet Teacher. You don’t want this mentality to ruin your curve, but you should keep it in mind.
Always use removal to limit your opponent’s ability to trigger Houndmaster. Though you have many ways of dealing with a buffed beast, you never want to spend extra resources it takes to fight through a beast and a 4/3. While it may not feel good, sometimes it is right to just Backstab a Haunted Creeper on turn three to stop a sudden 3/4 with taunt.
Sap is incredibly strong against Hunter because a lot of their minions need a turn to get ready, such as Piloted Shredder, Sludge Belcher and Savannah Highmane. For this reason, timing this card in the right situation (when you are already ahead on board) will almost always give you the game. While this can be good at mitigating early pressure, you generally want to save it for the later turns.
Keep Loatheb in mind, both yours and your opponent’s. The five drop is one of the best tempo plays in Hearthstone, and can end the game when played at the right time in a board vs. board matchup like this one. Always try to think about what might happen if you suddenly cannot play spells to make sure you will not get caught off guard. On the other hand, do not hesitate to play this when you are pushing for damage or if you need one turn to dodge a Kill Command or other damage spell.
The final rule here is to always be careful of Knife Juggler/Unleash the Hounds. Remember, you only need one minion to really control the pace of the game, so if you are ahead on board there is almost never a reason to add more cards into Hunter’s combo.
Late Game Strategy
The end turns of the game are always going to be a very tight race for damage. Midrange does not have traditional finishers, which means they are going to kill you by just playing a constant string of threats. You want to answer those threats as they come, but also get in as much damage as you can. Answering the board is strong, but only as a means to buy you more time to set up lethal.
Do not underestimate the power of pressure, especially when you and your opponent are neck-and-neck. As mentioned, you are a deck that inherently has a lot of damage, and if you push for lethal this will often make your opponent try and stop you. That will then put you in control of the game and let you dictate the ending pace. This is one of the best ways to get ahead in a tie.
The final rule is, when getting to the end of the game, you should not be afraid to build a giant dagger and hit your opponent in the face. Harrison Jones is not a card most Hunters run, so it is often ok to just use a Deadly Poison and Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil to hit your opponent and set up the two turn kill.
A big part of this game is playing around secrets. Midrange Hunter has access to an incredible amount of playable secrets these days, ranging from Snake Trap to Bear Trap to Freezing Trap and Explosive Trap. Each of these cards changes the game, and you always want to test for them only if you have the proper response in hand. For instance, do not attack face if you can’t kill a 3/3, and try not to run in a big minion into Freezing.