Introduction and Backstory
I have always liked Academic Espionage as it can lead to a lot of fun and memorable scenarios. However, in the past I always tried it with thief rogues built around Spectral Cutlass where Academic Espionage was a factor but not the main point of the deck. The problem I always ran into was that decks with Spectral Cutlass and a lot of different weapon buff and thief rogue cards had very limited card draw, so it was hard to get a lot of value going from Academic Espionage unless you played against really slow decks. So I decided to make a deck based solely around Academic Espionage, and after testing and optimizing it for the past few weeks I am very happy with how this one turned out. It has a lot of card draw and you get to play a lot of 1-cost cards generated from Academic Espionage pretty consistently. This has led to a lot of tempo swings and generally fun and memorable games, and as always with thief rogues, you have to think of strategies on the go based on what cards you are getting and can sometimes make very nice combos between different 1-cost cards.
For example, one time I got a 10 damage lethal in a long game where the opponent managed to win board control using Embrace the Shadow into Darkshire Alchemist on the opponent's face, Shadowstep, and Darkshire Alchemist again. In another game that shows the highroll potential of this deck, I played Academic Espionage turn 4 against a mage into Secret Passage and 1 mana copies of Curio Collector, Grand Finale, Mask of C'Thun, and Spellbender turn 5. This cleared the opponent's board and generated a large board for me, and Spellbender saved my elemental from Grand Finale from a removal spell the following turn, leading to a quick victory. There are many games like this and they happen a lot more consistently than with Spectral Cutlass based thief rogues. The Spectral Cutlass version of thief rogue has strengths and weakness compared to this one, but for me at least the Academic Espionage version is a lot more enjoyable.
This is not a competitive ranked deck, but depending on what you get from Academic Espionage any game, even one against a highly aggressive deck, is winnable. You also win against most fatigue style decks due to shuffling in more cards into your deck, and you can even go infinite with two copies of Lab Recruiter where you use one copy on the other. Valeera the Hollow can allow you to do this with only one Lab Recruiter in hand. You can also win by playing a mill type of game versus slow decks by shuffling in extra Coldlight Oracles into your deck. Finally, Flik Skyshiv can win you certain matchups by itself such as matches against Mill Rogue where you use it on Coldlight Oracle and matches against Shudderwock Shaman where you use it on Shudderwock. So overall, although this deck is not the most competitive it is extremely fun and leads to a lot of memorable games, and you can win a decent percentage of games with it too.
Always mulligan for Academic Espionage, keep both copies if you get them. These are the most important cards of the deck and you generally want to play them as soon as you can so you can start drawing overpowered cards; most class cards you get are generally overpowered when their cost is reduced to 1, so you win many games by drawing and playing a lot of 1 cost cards to get a huge tempo boost. If you already have Academic Espionage you can keep Preparation, Doomsayer if against an aggressive class (so not priest), and even Stowaway.
If you don't get a single copy of Academic Espionage from your mulligan phase, use Secret Passage on turn 5 to try to get an Academic Espionage from it. You can also use your plentiful card draw like Swindles, Coldlight Oracles, and Elven Minstrels, including comboing the minions with Shadowstep, to draw through your deck further to get to an Academic Espionage [/card]. Some cards that are useful to stall the game are [card]Doomsayer and Vanish.
After you have played Academic Espionage, Stowaway becomes a great card as it will draw two 1 cost cards for you. It is often worth it to use Shadowstep on him the turn you play it so you can replay it next turn, the tempo loss from losing a 4/4 body will almost always be gained back from the tempo gain of playing two more 1 cost class cards next turn. If you are against a fast deck, it is better to use Lab Recruiter on Stowaway than on Coldlight Oracle because Stowaway will draw you powerful cards but does not draw any for your opponent.
For the late game, Tess Greymane is a powerful card that can replay the cards you played from Academic Espionage. You can replay her multiple times using Shadowstep to bounce her and Lab Recruiter to shuffle multiple copies into your deck. Remember what cards you played before her so you can predict what will happen after she is played. Sometimes it is better to not play a certain card you get from Academic Espionage if you don't want Tess Greymane to replay it. For example, if you want to use her to pressure and create large boards then you should not play board clears from Academic Espionage before her unless you have to, or she might use a board clear when you play her and destroy the board she creates.
Try to assess your winning conditions based on how slow your opponent's deck is. Sometimes using Coldlight Oracles aggressively combined with Lab Recruiters to get more of them in your deck and Brann Bronzebeard [/card] and [card]Spirit of the Shark to increase the Coldlight Oracle effects will win you the game by making your opponent go into fatigue before you, and you can mill a lot of their cards which is especially helpful if you are against a combo deck. When you are rapidly drawing through your deck this way, the 1 mana cards you get from Academic Espionage will help you maintain board presence and tempo.
This deck really brings out the full power of Academic Espionage, and can consistently lead to extremely fun games. Every game will feel different, and it has a high replayability value. I hope you enjoy this deck, and if you have a question or comment about it please write it below.