While Rogue is not as popular as it once was, Oil is a very strong archetype that can stand up to almost all of the popular decks on ladder. It has a lot of card draw, strong burst and resilient minions. If you want to take the combo deck to ladder, it is always best to know how to combat other strong lists. One of those is Secret Paladin, a matchup this guide will break down to show you how to use your burst and efficient removal to come out on top.
There are many ways to play Oil Rogue, and each has their own merits. Some favor more spells to better set up the combo, some stick to more removal, and some are much more focused on the board. While there are many options of Rogue to choose from, it is important to pick the archetype that best suits your play. To help you with this decision, and to help you understand the various choices available to you, some decklists have been linked below.
When mulliganing against Paladin you need to try to get all of your early removal. Paladin is a deck that builds off of its early game (and strong curve) extremely well. As a result, you need to stop their early minions or you are going to fall behind. While you can keep some your slower cards if you have the coin, a good curve or something like Preparation, you typically need to hard mulligan for low drops.
Cards to KeepBackstab Deadly Poison SI:7 Agent Fan of Knives
Preparation can be kept if you have a spell heavy hand and need to play multiple removal spells early on. Also can be kept with a solid curve and Sprint.
Bloodmage Thalnos can be kept with early spells, but it is too weak to keep on its own.
Eviscerate should be kept if you have no other removal.
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
The way to beat Secret Paladin is by controlling the board as much as possible. While Rogue runs many spells, it has a lot more minions than it once did. This is important to note, because Paladin will do their best to make sure that you never get a minion to stick. In this way, you can use your minions as leverage, forcing your opponent to play defensively as they don’t want to get suddenly burst down. Your goal in this game is to get a minion (any minion) onto an empty board, which will immediately put you in control, whether you have action or not.
The biggest rule of this game is that you just need to stay alive long enough to set up your combo or burst damage. That means you need to clear everything that your opponent plays to protect your life total. That shifts once you get control of the board, but you generally want to play this game safe. Just take down their minions to slowly grind them down and run them out of cards.
Early Game Strategy
The most important part of winning this game is stopping Paladin early. They are a deck that builds off of itself extremely well, but they depend on their curve to do that. If you can shut down their one or two drop it can really ruin their plan and force them to play from behind the rest of the game. Removal is key during these turns, as is playing any solid minion you can to challenge their curve.
Bloodmage Thalnos is very strong early because it lets cards like Backstab and Fan of Knives get in for a lot of damage. The two drop should never be kept on its own, but when you have cheap spells to combo with, he can be a very strong option to have access. Even using him with Preparation to clear early on can be a strong play.
Fan of Knives, like Swipe in Druid, is very key to this match. Not only does this card do a great job of taking down Muster for Battle, but it can combod with a lot of other plays to kill things like Knife Juggler and Secretkeeper. While you may want to try and save this for the “big” turns, you typically just want to use this whenever you can remove two or more things.
Note: Board presence is key here. That means you should not be afraid to play minions just for their body. SI:7 Agent has a great ability, but it also works very well on turn three as a 3/3 to challenge Paladin’s board.
While it is easy to see the middle game as the turns where you want to use your spells to stop Paladin’s giant threats, you can actually play the tempo game on board as well. As a Rogue, there are many different minion you run, and if you can back those up with your removal spells you can control the pace of combat.
Sap is one of your best cards for countering Paladin’s turn six. Mysterious Challenger is very strong, but Sap ruins most of the usual buffs it comes with. In addition, Paladin also runs a lot of minions that get sapped very hard, like Piloted Shredder and Sludge Belcher. Though you want to save this card for the larger threats, it is very good at clearing your path when you are pushing for lethal.
Violet Teacher is another card you shouldn’t be afraid to go all-in on. It is very rare that Paladin runs Consecration these days, and even if they have it, it doesn’t kill the 3/5. Teacher is one of your strongest minions in this game because Paladin does not do well when fighting through a full board. Use her as soon as possible, even if that means using Preparation with Sap of Eviscerate to get a clear board.
It is also important to note how strong the threat of Azure Drake is. The five drop is just a 4/4 on its own, but it has a solid body as well as the strongest ability in Rogue in spell power. Your opponent is not going to let the dragon live. As a result, you can use it to stall your opponent down or force them to make a play they don’t want to take. Just running this out, even if it’s going to die, is a good way to set up tempo and slow the game down.
Do not be afraid to use Blade Flurry. This card is typically used as a finisher, but, as mentioned, here you just want to clear as much as you can. This card does a great job of giving you breathing room while also pushing through some face damage. This can be used as a larger Fan of Knives in a pinch.
Late Game Strategy
The end of the game is going to be a mix of Paladin trying to push lethal through with their bigger threats and you attempting to set up your finishing burst damage. If you are at low health you want to play this very close to the chest, taking extra care to clear so you can stop any sudden burst they could have like Blessing of Kings or Truesilver Champion.
Sap is also very key in these turns as well. It is strong for the same reasons it is good during the middle game, but it also deals with Tirion Fordring (your biggest road block). If you have Sap in the later turns and you don’t need it for damage or staying alive, try your best to save it for the light-loving legendary.
Watch out for Dr. Boom. This card is very strong with Rogue, and just laughs at Sap. The best way to plan for the doctor is to either have an overwhelming board presence by turn seven (or at least enough damage in hand), or to pressure your opponent so much that he won’t matter.
Remember, when you’re the aggressor Paladin has to answer your plays. If you are pushing forward they are going to be more focused on clearing then adding presence. This is a good way to force them off of their big threats as the game progresses.
Watch out for Divine Favor. This can be very tricky, but there are a good number of tells that your opponent is setting up favor, such as not playing a certain card in their hand or using high-cost plays when they normally wouldn’t. You are a deck that likes to play a lot of cards, but you never want to give your opponent a full hand if you can help it. If you suspect a favor try to play extra cards if you can.