Oil Rogue is the most powerful version of Rogue on ladder. It is consistent, has reliable burst, and a strong amount of resilient minions. If you want to take it to ladder, you need to know how to beat the most common decks you are going to face. One such deck is Zoo, a very powerful Warlock deck that wins games through a combination of board presence and damage. In this guide will break down the matchup between both decks, and show how Rogue can use quick damage and threat of burst to come out on top.
There are many cards you have to run in Oil Rogue, but there are also many variations on the deck. Some lists are more minion heavy, while some are packed with spells and others tend to stick to more damage. Each versions has its own strengths and weakness, and each one plays in a slightly different way. When deciding what version of oil you want to play (or what tech choices you want to make) it is always best to choose the style you best understand. To help you with this decision, three lists have been linked below.
When mulliganing against Warlock you need assume you are facing Zoo. Renolock is a very strong deck, but you can recover against them. Against Zoo you will get run over if you aren’t careful. That means you want to keep all of your early removal spells and throw everything else back. You need to match Zoo as soon as they come out of the gates, and you do not want to keep you mid-game cards in hopes you will live until turn five.
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
There are two parts to playing against Zoo, and each is pivotal to winning this matchup. The first is controlling the board. Zoo is as much of a tempo deck as they are an aggro deck, and you need to mitigate their minion count as much as you can. So much so that you should try and allocate as many resources to making sure they have a clear board. There will be a stage in the game where you need to focus on damage, but that only comes when you are pushing for lethal.
The other part of this game is watching you life total. Zoo is one of the most aggressive tempo decks in the game. While they do have a lot of big minions and midrange threats, they also have massive amounts of burst. You need to always try to use your removal in a way that will play to their big threats and limit any big turn they might have. Due to things like Power Overwhelming and Abusive Sergeant, it is best to try to stay above the mid-teens as much as possible.
Early Game Strategy
The opening turns of this game are where most of your control is going to come into play. This is because you have very little limited early resources and you need to make all of your removal count. Always look for ways to slow down Zoo and take away their big-impact minions. While it may not feel good to play Eviscerate without a combo on a Knife Juggler, sometimes that is what you have to do.
Bloodmage Thalnos is a great tool at getting an early board clear with something like Fan of Knives or Backstab. If you have the two drop legendary, always look for ways the extra spell damage can help you keep Zoo off the board. Also, if you have a weak hand, do not be afraid to play him just to grab an extra card.
SI:7 Agent and Backstab are your two best resources during these turns. Almost all of Zoo’s minions have two or less health, making each of these very strong. Unless you just need a body on an empty board, you always want to use SI:7 Agent with the combo. That means delaying spells you would cast early to make him work. While you may want to kill the early Dark Peddler with Backstab, it is usually better to hold off a turn as a way to get in the extra two damage.
Try your best to save Fan of Knives for Imp-losion. The four mana spell is very strong at both filling the board and killing your early plays. As such, if you don’t have a plan for it you can fall behind very quickly. Using a fan too early can lead to problems and really set you back. You always need to be aware of the role each of your removal spells plays and do your best to play them in those roles.
During the middle turns you want to shift from being a strict control deck to applying your own pressure. Zoo is going to try and get big minions, but they are usually going to spend some life doing that. As a result, you can often get them to play reactively against any minions you play. Know this, and understand to push when you have the chance, as that will help you dictate the pact of the game.
Plan for Defender of Argus. The four drop is very good at ruining removal and messing up combat. Come turn four you always want to try and plan your clears by adding one damage and defense to all of your opponent’s minions. You should also do that when planning how your opponent can trade into your minions as well.
Your strongest minion during these turns is Violet Teacher. Zoo does not operate well against swarms of minions, and she can really fill up the board if given the opportunity. Once that happens you should be able to take over the game. You always want to get her onto an empty board any chance you can, even if that means using a Preparation.
Always look for ways to set up Blade Flurry. This card is usually a finisher, but against Zoo you want to use it as mass AOE. Once you move into the middle game you want to save your oils and Deadly Poisons to punish Zoo should they over-commit to the board.
Sap is very strong against Zoo. They have many minions (Sea Giant, Nerubian Egg) that need a turn to “get ready”. Because of that, Sap just completely sets them back and acts like a pseudo removal spell. You should use this in any way you can to gain tempo. Just remember to only use it on things that don’t have a battlecry.
Sea Giant can be a real problem for your deck because it is very hard to clear eight health without expending multiple resources. As such, always try to keep your opponent’s minion count down to where they can’t reliably cast it. If they have been holding cards you think are giants, try to limit your own minions as well.
Late Game Strategy
Your goal of this game is to slowly run Zoo out of cards, which limits how much they can do in terms of board presence as well as lethal. However, if you make it to the later stages of this game you just want to do what you can to kill your opponent. As a Rogue, you have a ton of different burst options and damage spells. Do not be afraid to leverage that damage and go face if you are ahead on board or life.
That being said, it is quite important to be careful. Zoo runs a lot of burst these days, and both Leeroy Jenkins and Enhance-o-Mechano (windfury) can stack up a lot of damage out of nowhere. Always think about possible damage Zoo could have, and count the amount of burst (Abusive Sergeant, Power Overwhelming) they have played throughout the game.
Do not be afraid to bluff. While you do need to always take care of your life total, sometimes you can wait a turn on a AOE or removal to kill more minions or better targets. This can be a risky play, but if you are at a high enough life total making your opponent think you don’t have a Blade Flurry or the like can lead to a blowout that wins you the game.