By cherylchalla

Cherylchalla is back with TIY, a series targeted toward newer players, who want more control over the decks they play. In today's article we take a closer look at Oil Rogue.

In order to dissuade players from net-decking without putting thought into it, this series tries to walk you through the thought process of deck composition, rather than explicitly saying what compositions are correct or incorrect! Pro-players may have optimized decks to perfection, but, if a player doesn’t understand why the deck was composed the way it was, the suboptimal plays that result will be the same as playing a suboptimal deck. In addition, being able to tech a deck can allow a player to create a deck that suits their own play style and the meta they’re currently in.
Table of Contents

  1. Intro and “Core”
  2. Spells
  3. Minions
  4. Inclusion decisions
  5. Being mindful of the curve
  6. Extras (Tips and Mulligan)


(1) Intro and Core

Today’s TIY features one of my favourite decks: Oil Rogue. Again, we start by taking a look at the “core” of a Oil Rogue deck, where the “core” is essentially the cards that make this an Oil Rogue deck.
By looking at the core, we can understand that this deck can pack in a lot of damage through spells and sets up for it by staying ahead of the opponent with powerful tempo swinging cards.Tinker's Sharpsword Oil, especially when combined with Blade Flurry, can deal so much damage that it can often win games quickly, much to the dismay of your unsuspecting opponent. Tempo can be defined as setting the pace of the game, where you’re forcing your opponent to react to your plays, rather than the other way around. 

Now that we have our core, how do we make Oil Rogue work? We need Rogue’s great tempo swinging cards, the cycle cards, and minions in order to help us accomplish our win condition. Let’s dive right in and look at the potential spells and minions that we can use to accompany our core.



(2) Spells


The thing that makes Rogue spells standout from other classes is the fact that most of them allow for huge tempo swings. This means that with these spells, we can stay ahead of our opponents, allowing us to turn over some damage with our minions, and, ultimately, we can lead up to our burst turns to finish our opponents. Another thing to keep in mind are the Rogue combos, giving us the value and tempo we need to stay ahead.

With this in mind, we can see that Backstab is usually a must-include 2x. Not only does it allow us to remove small minions (or aid us in removing larger minions), but its 0 mana cost means that it is a free proc for any of the combo cards.

On a similar note, Sap is also a great card for both tempo and serving as a proc for combo cards. Although it is removal that does not destroy a minion once and for all, its cheapness and ability to be played for free with Preparation means you can build a powerful board behind a Sap play. Often times, this means your opponent cannot afford to spend the mana to play the Sapped card a second time around.

Let’s take a look at Shiv vs. Fan of Knives. Both are cycle cards, cycle being very important in any kind of combo deck. I personally prefer Fan over Shiv. The cheaper cost of Shiv makes it more desirable as a spell that can proc combo cards. On the other hand, the AOE feature of Fan of Knives makes it an excellent card against fast decks or decks with low health minions, like Zoo, Paladin, and Hunter. Fan of Knives has often been seen as a two-of in most Rogue builds. However, the increasing popularity of Grim Patron has caused this card to be used as a one-of in some newer builds.

Note: I have listed Bloodmage Thalnos as one of the core cards of this deck. However, I personally believe that Shiv can serve as the most appropriate replacement for Thalnos. Popular replacements for Thalnos have included Kobold Geomancer and Loot Hoarder - one provides spell damage, but the other provides card draw. Thalnos is incredibly difficult to replace. I believe Shiv is the best, as it can be seen as +1 Spell Damage (except for with AOE spells) and provides cycle at the same time. The only downside is Shiv cannot provide a body on the board like the other replacements do. 

In the core, we include one copy of Tinkers Sharpsword Oil - when do we run a second Oil? I’ve seen compelling arguments for both 1x Oil and 2x Oil. While it is true that the 4 mana cost of Oil means that it is not the easiest card to combo, with Preparation and proper weapon management, two Oils can deal so much damage.

Sprint is the key cycle card that allows us to refuel back into any game. As the Rogue is the tempo and pace setter, it is not surprising that we end up in situations where our hand is close to depletion. In order to continue to set the pace, we cannot afford “dead”/weak turns. By refilling our hand with Sprint, we can continue to set the tempo of our games. The cycle also allows us to collect more pieces of our damage combos, bringing us closer toward lethal. However, its 7 mana cost also means that it can kill the tempo that you are trying to retain. As a result, some decks only run 1x Sprint (although I personally have always used 2x). Sprint can also serve to provide you with more options when your hands are awkward; i.e., Preparation + Sprint on turn 4 when you don't have a minion to play.

I’ll also include Assassin’s Blade here as a spell, even though it is technically categorized as a weapon. Although it can be very vulnerable to Harrison Jones and Acidic Swamp Ooze, if you can manage to get the Blade set-up, it’ll turn over an insane amount of damage when combined weapon buffs.


(3) Minions


Instead of breaking down the minions by category like we did with Handlock last week, let’s break down popular minion options by mana cost. This allows us to keep an eye on our curve, as well as to more clearly see which cards are useful as combo procs.

1 mana: Southsea Deckhand is usually a one-of that can proc Oil. Its charge ability allows us to pack a lot of damage into one turn. However, it is not always an auto-include, depending on how much room you need for tech cards. Especially since the inclusion of stickier minions such as Piloted Shredder, we don’t necessarily need Southsea to get Oil value. Due to its cheap cost, ability to proc combos, and damage output, we can view Southsea as a "third Backstab". It is also great against Hunter as a turn 1 play or to proc their Freezing Traps.

2 mana: Our turn two is usually spent hero powering unless you’re on coin (see 3 mana!), meaning our 2 drops are usually not played turn 2. (Note that it is sometimes recommended to drop Bloodmage Thalnos turn 2 to cycle when you don’t have a turn 3 play.) As a result, I see a card like Goblin Autobarber as a 3-drop, despite costing 2 mana. When used in the mid- to late-game, you can almost view it as a Bloodmage Thalnos when used with Blade Flurry. It is a 2 drop that bumps your Flurry with that extra reach. It is, however, less versatile, as it cannot increase the damage of other spells and cannot function as a cycle card. The cheap cost of 2 mana minions are great as a proc for any of the combo cards.

3 mana: Rogue has a plethora of 3 drop options. SI:7 Agent is such a powerful tempo card that they are generally seen as a two-of and a must-include. In addition, Oil Rogue decks have run Earthen Ring Farseer, Edwin van Cleef, Shade of Naxxramas, and Scarlet Crusader. The 3 drops you choose to include depends on personal playstyle and the decks you find yourself facing. The heal provided by Earthen Ring can provide your hero extra life or allow your minions to make more trades than they normally could. On the other hand, Scarlet Crusader is a more aggressive 3 drop relative to Earthen Ring. Its divine shield allows it to turnover more damage than Earthen Ring. Additionally, the divine shield allows this minion to stick, making it easier to get value off of your Oil. 

Edwin van Cleef is great with the Coin, Preparation, or to end off any big combo turn. Shade of Naxxramas has also seen use in Oil Rogue, due to its ability to stick onto the board and grow, setting up for more impctful burst turns and giving Oil full value. In my opinion, Shade is not used as commonly as the aforementioned 3 drops, because it is a relatively slower card. Rogue’s ability to upkeep its tempo in order to stay ahead of the opponent is what makes this class strong. It is difficult to get immediate value off of Shade as, ideally, we would prefer the Shade to grow a few turns to pose as a threat. This slow down of tempo may make Shade less than ideal as a 3 drop for Rogue.

In the current meta, especially with Dr. Boom around, Big Game Hunter sees value in almost every matchup possible. As a result, we are seeing more and more BGH techs included in Oil Rogue. Sapping Dr. Boom does not feel like as a big tempo swing as it normally would, due to the Boom Bots being left behind on the board. Despite being a “situational” card, it is hard to deny that, in this meta, we usually end up in games where there will be a situation that calls for the use of BGH.



4 mana: The most popular builds have included Piloted Shredder and Violet Teacher - sometimes both. Violet Teacher’s ability to generate a token whenever you cast a spell makes it a lot easier to grab the board, especially since Rogue has many spells to use with Preparation. The recent popularity of Grim Patron Warrior, however, has made the Teacher more of a liability. Piloted Shredders are a popular inclusion, as they are sticky (Oil value!) and can turn over more damage than the Teachers can. This improves the Control Warrior matchup significantly. (Note: the Oil Rogue vs. Control Warrior matchup is so difficult because we have a limited number of resources and damage at our disposal, while the Control Warrior can continuously gain armor every turn.)

5 mana: Loatheb works wonders in a lot of matchups. Its ability to shut down the removal spells from the other side makes this minion able to survive the board (given your opponent doesn’t already have a strong board) and allows it to be a precursor to the Oil turn. Sludge Belcher is a defensive option and is also sticky (more Oil value!). Antique Healbot is another popular 5 drop. By providing so much heal, Healbot can allow Rogue to last enough turns to set up for the combo turn. Especially since Rogue is a weapon class, we tend to take a lot of blowback when dealing with the board, making the +8 heal from Healbot invaluable. Note of interest: Dog has recently been playing a double Healbot build to some success.

6 mana: I know my article series is to encourage everyone to make their own tech decisions, but, to be frank, I don’t think Emperor is that good of an inclusion in Oil Rogue. We already have great tempo cards that are cheap, or can be made cheap with Preparation. In addition, just because we are naturally the tempo setters, it means our hand can be used up relatively quickly and so Emperor doesn’t benefit our hand enough. Some players have argued that the role Emperor plays in filling in the 6 drop void in Rogue is enough justification. However, the fact that we are entering turn 6 means we are inching closer toward a combo turn. I would rather be using my turn 6 to plan a few turns ahead (such as making a fresh weapon or creating a stronger board). I personally don’t think the 6 drop void in Rogue is one that needs to be filled.

The only 6 mana minion I would consider is Gadgetzan Auctioneer (for those running the 1x Sprint decks). Before the nerf, Auctioneer was a 5 mana minion, and so you could set it up earlier and more easily. The current 6 mana cost makes Auctioneer difficult to use at best. Preparation used to be one of the best ways to proc Auctioneer in old Miracle Rogue. Now that we have Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil for bursty finishes (instead of the Leeroy into Shadowstep combo), it is much easier to be saving up our Preparations to be used with Oil rather than Auctioneer.

7 mana: This brings us to the popular debate on Dr. Boom in Oil Rogue - is it too slow? Is it too vulnerable as the only BGH-able target in the deck? Again, I think here’s where personal preference and playstyle takes the wheel. With all the BGHs on the ladder nowadays, I could do without Dr. Boom. It is also difficult, however, to pass up on including the most powerful 7 drop in the game currently.

8 mana+: Oil Rogue probably doesn’t need to go this far up the curve. At this point in the game, you’re hoping your opponent is in lethal range, or at least close to it, meaning you’ll be using your mana to set up your combos.


(4) Inclusion decisions


When you’re deciding what cards to include in your deck, always keep two things in mind: the “theme” of your deck and the decks you are seeing a lot of on the ladder. The “theme” here is a tempo deck with a burst finish. Remember to give every card a fair evaluation. Just because a card worked great in that one game where that one situation happened doesn’t mean it’s a consistent card or a must-include in your deck. Give every game an honest reflection - if I had X card instead of Y, how might the game have gone differently? You can even keep scores in your head - “card X was excellent one out of the five games I played today, but Y probably would’ve been great in all five of today’s games".

An example of an inclusion decision was the use of Cold Blood and Conceal with the introduction of GvG. When Gadgetzan Auctioneer was nerfed to a 6 mana drop during the release of GvG, it was deemed too expensive to be a two-of in Rogue decks. People turned to 1x Auctioneer and 1x Sprint, or even 0x Auctioneer and 1/2x Sprint. As a result, the inclusion of Cold Blood and Conceal, cheap 1 mana Rogue spells that were used to proc the Auctioneer for card cycle, had to be reevaluated. Both these cards are no longer used in popular Rogue builds today, because of the changes brought on by GvG - the Auctioneer nerf and the new Tinker’s Sharpsword Oil. Without Auctioneer, we don’t need so many cheap cards to proc the Auctioneer cycle. Additionally, we don’t miss the extra damage Cold Blood gave us, because that is more than compensated for with the inclusion of the Oil.

Never be afraid to try something that’s never been tried before. Be receptive to what’s working and what isn’t. Don’t fall for confirmation bias. And, most importantly, don’t ever test your rendition of a deck in casual mode - have confidence in your abilities!


(5) Being mindful of the curve

Remember that Rogues are the pace setters. If your curve (and, as a result, hands) are too clunky, you won’t be able to use your mana optimally and can easily fall into the pits of dead turns. Try to populate the 2, 3, and 4 mana portion of your curve the most (but don’t over populate!). The 2 mana portion of the curve tends to be filled with many of Rogue’s cheap spells, while the 3 and 4 mana portions are the minions. Remember that you DON’T want a top heavy curve! You’re looking to finish them by the time we enter the late game, not play out the game to fatigue.

(6) Extras

For those completely new to Oil Rogue, here are some helpful tips:

Never forget about weapon management!

  • This means thinking at least one to two turns ahead
  • Being mindful of your weapon’s durability will save you a lot of trouble when you’re trying to set up for big burst turns
  • Especially since the 2 mana used toward weaponing up cannot be used to proc a combo, you often cannot afford to waste that mana

When do/don’t I save my weapon charges?

  • Keep Harrison Jones in mind when you’re facing control decks
  • Acidic Swamp Ooze is also a reasonable threat, now that Grim Patron Warriors are everywhere
  • E.g., if you know for sure you are going to be buffing a fresh 2-durability weapon next turn, don’t waste the damage; swing!

Try not to play the face Hunter matchups too defensively; we’re looking to finish them before they can finish you (which they can easily do with all those charge minions!)
Depending on the situation, don’t be afraid to use Preparation for Tempo; it doesn’t necessarily have to be saved for Oil or Sprint.


(Very general) Mulligan guide: 

vs. aggro

  • you want your removal; Backstab, SI:7 Agent, Fan of Knives, Eviscerate, Preparation
  • Southsea Deckhand is particularly great as a turn 1 play and against Hunters that run Freezing Trap
  • Healbot (espeically if you run only one) is also a good keep

vs. control 

  • you want your minions for board presence; any of your 4 or 5 drops
  • Deadly Poison for Priests and Warriors (to deal with Northshire Cleric and Acolyte of Pain)
  • Keep Saps against Druids (Innervate plays) and Priests (Injured Blademaster into Circle of Healing)


Now that I have broken down the popular tech inclusions in Oil Rogue, go and try to build your own! I hope that, by encouraging you to think about exactly why you're including each card, the playing of this deck will feel more intuitive. Good luck; feel free to leave comments below if you have any suggestions or questions.

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