Renolock is one of the premier decks in today’s meta, which means anytime you are taking a deck to ladder you are going to have to know the best way to beat it. Some decks have a rough time with the control Warlock, but others can push through with massive amounts of burst. One such deck is Oil Rogue, a combo list that does a good job of taking down Reno. In this guide we will analyze both deck to show why that is.
Oil Rogue has a very stable core, but that does not mean there is only one list. While you have to play with the combo cards, there are also several variations you can take. Some lists run more minions for board control, some like to play more removal, and others are much more spell heavy. Each version is strong as long as you know how to play it, and you should always stick to an archetype you understand. To help you understand some directions you can take, three lists have been linked below.
When going up against Warlock, unless you know your opponent is Renolock, you have to mulligan for Zoo. This means you want to keep your early removal and low-cost minions. You can keep some of your stronger minions, but you only really want those with a solid early game of either spells or cheap minions.
Cards to KeepBackstab Deadly Poison 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.
Eviscerate should be kept if you have no other removal.
Sap is very strong with a minion-heavy opening.
Blade Flurry is a strong keep if you have no other AOE options at your disposal.
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
Pressure (or lack thereof) is how you are going to beat Renolock. This game is all about balancing your damage, seeing how you can drop your opponent into lethal range while also making sure they don’t heal up. That is going to be very hard to do, and the way you attack completely depends on your hand. If you have a chance for an early kill, push and force your opponent to react. However, as the game goes on, if you are trying to set up damage, keep them in the high-teens and burst them from there.
The other key to this matchup is anticipating plays. Renolock plays a pretty solid list, and every card they have is just a one of. As a result, when they play something it means they can never do it again. Understand that, and try to force out certain cards when possible. For instance, making your opponent use their entire turn on a Twisting Nether because they have already burned Shadow Flame. Those are the plays that can help you force your opponent’s hand and lead to a win.
Early Game Strategy
The start of this game is going to be rather slow. Renolock doesn’t run that much early action, and neither you do. You want to try to set up your middle and late game here. That means getting in hits when you can (do not be afraid to dagger their face) and drawing cards. This game is going to be won with burst, so you never need to overreact to an early board.
The most important part of the starting turns is recognizing your opponent’s deck. Since you always want to assume you are facing Zoo when playing against Warlock, you need to look for clues that will tell you if your opponent is Renolock. This can usually be discerned if your opponent plays nothing on turn one since Zoo runs a ton of one drops. However, if you are still unsure, a Lifetap on two almost always means Reno.
You want to get early minions on the board if you can. Renolock has limited removal options, and while you don’t always want to put your opponent too low, you do want to get in some early hits if possible. Putting down a minion as a body early (even if you cannot use the effect) can be a good way to let you play both sides. If you pressure and they don’t have answers you can go for the quick kill. If they do, then just prepare for your late burst.
Do not be afraid to cycle spells. That is to say, do not hold back on playing something like Fan of Knives for the card draw. This is going to be a slow game, and you need to use every opportunity to smooth out your hand. Of course there will be times where you want to get value out of your spells, but if you have a weak hand you need to draw for some action. The same rule goes for running out an early Bloodmage Thalnos as well.
The middle turns of the game are going to be spent in two stages, setting up lethal and keeping your opponent’s damage potential to a minimum. Renolock has a good number of midrange minions and you generally want to take them down if you can. This will help you keep your minions on the board and allow you to protect them through spells.
The biggest rule of the mid-game is to never overextend into AOE. Your main use of your minions should be to threaten damage or push. There is no reason to fill up your board unless you specifically want to bait your opponent into using lethal.
Regarding life totals, Reno Jackson is a one time trick. While you want to try and keep them in the high-teens, you have no problem with them using the explorer on turn six or seven if you have a board when they do. Healing is only good at stabilizing once the board is empty. If you can hit for seven or more on the board, it won’t matter if they go to thirty since you can knock them right back down.
Always plan for Loatheb. While the five drop doesn’t really matter too much in terms of your spells (setting you back just one turn) it can be a problem in terms of allowing your opponent to set up lethal. As a result, if your opponent is filling up the board or getting down multiple minions you want to burn a Sap or removal spell to make sure they can’t use the five drop to stall you out.
Late Game Strategy
The end of this game is going to be a very interesting affair, where you try to get them into burst range without them realizing they are in burst range. Renolock has three main sources of healing: Reno Jackson, Antique Healbot and Siphon Soul. Some also run Refreshment Vendor and Earthen Ring Farseer as well. Your goal (if you’ve made it this far) is to set up the big turn that they cannot answer to. If you can kill them from twenty there is no reason to put them to sixteen.
Renolock runs a good number of big threats, which makes the later stages of the game very tricky. You want to utilize your removal and only save it for the truly big threats like Dr. Boom or Molten Giant. Your primary goal here is to push for damage, but you also don’t want to get so caught up in finding lethal that you die.
Sap is very important at this stage of the game because it can clear a taunt (Defender of Argus, Sludge Belcher etc.) or save your life. Understand the best way to use this. If you need to make a tempo play to put your opponent in lethal range, clearing a taunt is most likely the right move. However, short of that you just want to hold onto it until your opponent plays a threat worth taking off the board.
Renolock does not have a lot of pressure, and unless they are combo (very rare these days) what they have on the board is generally how much reach they have. As a result, do not be afraid to simply enact your own gameplan in the face of damage. It may not feel comfortable, but you can leave minions up if you need to try and dig for damage or set up two turn lethal.