In-Depth Turn Analysis #14: Totems!

Hi guys! Welcome to Episode #14 of In-Depth Turn Analysis. For more information about the series and/or to see a list of previous episodes please click here. This week’s deck: Totem Shaman This week’s contributors:  Smashthings This is the first In-depth Turn Analysis post-TGT expansion. With a whole new card set comes new decks, new problems, and […]


Hi guys! Welcome to Episode #14 of In-Depth Turn Analysis. For more information about the series and/or to see a list of previous episodes please click here.

  • This week’s deck: Totem Shaman
  • This week’s contributors:  Smashthings

This is the first In-depth Turn Analysis post-TGT expansion. With a whole new card set comes new decks, new problems, and and a bunch of new of ideas to explore and concepts to explain.  Cool, huh?

In Today’s episode we will by studying a position Strifeco found himself in on Ladder whilst playing a Totem Shaman deck against a Druid.

Okay, Let’s begin!

About This Week’s Deck

The deck used in this episode is:



Unfortunately since the deck-lists are grand-spanking new I do not have any deck guides I can link to.

The Situation

Okay, so let’s look at the position shall we?

In actual games, positions have context beyond the deck you are using. In an effort to make this series more realistic and less ‘puzzle-like’ let’s talk about a few cards that have been used in the game so far and any other little bits of information that seem relevant.



KEY CARDS USED (YOU):  1x Rockbiter Weapon, 1x Flametongue Totem, 1x Vitality Totem (on the board), 2x Tuskarr Totemic.

YOUR HAND: Azure Drake, Dr. Boom, Draenei Totemcarver, Hex

KEY CARDS USED (OPPONENT): Wild Growth, Druid of the Claw, Keeper of the Grove, Innervate, Harvest Golem, Force of Nature


Armed with this information, you must now start to think about the needs/peculiarities of both the position and the match-up. Get busy thinking! In the next section we will see what some of us at HSP thought about the position and what they think is the best play.

Smashthings’ Analysis

[spoiler title=”Smashthings”]

Okay so in my opinion this position is fairly simple and the correct play is easy to find (for most players). But nonetheless, I think the position is somewhat instructive and worthy of at least a little bit of discussion.

Alright, so it would seem like there are 6 basic options and one special consideration (that applies to most of the play’s) this turn:

  1. Pass
  2. Hero Power + Pass
  3. Hex our own minion (but how do we decide which one?)
  4. Azure Drake
  5. Draenai Totemcarver + Hero Power (in what order?)
  6. Draenai Totemcarver

SPECIAL CONSIDERATION: Placement of Minions. Although Druid does not have access to cards affected by minion placement (e.g. Explosive Shot, Cone of Cold, Betrayal, etc), the Shaman Deck does run 2x Flametongue Totem and 1x Defender of Argus. Even though neither of these cards are currently in hand it is nonetheless good practice to carefully consider how you arrange your minions on the board.

Of these 6 plays most are clearly terrible and only one is decent. I’m pretty sure all of you have spotted the correct play; Hexing the Healing Totem is best! Yeah, I know that sounds totally crazy but after you read what follows I’m fairly certain I’ll be able to convince most of you of the strength of this play. Buckle you seatbelts, Kids.

Okay let’s begin. To understand why Hexing the Health totem is correct requires you to understand that we are playing against a Ramp Druid and with 7 mana next turn we need to play-around…Actually guys, I’m just fucking with you; Hex is without question the worst possible play in this position, but given how often this series advocates strange looking play’s I’d like to think that at least one of you lovely readers was sitting at your computer thinking “Hexing ones own minion!? I never would have saw that! Oh man, this guy is so next level.”

Okay, let’s begin properly this time, Shall we?

As a random side-note, I listed a bunch of pointless and obviously bad plays mostly to get you thinking. In “Seeing Possibilities” I tried to argue that playing on ‘auto-pilot’ is not a good idea and creativity requires you to ask a variety of– sometimes outlandish– questions. Sometimes just passing is better than Hero Power + pass, but you will only realise when that is the case by ensuring that you ask yourself the question in the first place.

For example, in this position consider the “Draenai Totemcarver + Hero Power” play versus “Draenai Totemcarver + Pass”. Most of the time, I bet most of you would play on ‘Auto-pilot’ and instinctively make a totem alongside Dranai Totemcarver, but “Why might this be the worse play?”

By simply asking the question you are forced to think about it. And I have no doubt that some of you would have arrived at a reasonable answer: Totemcarver + Hero Power can be punished by mind control tech whereas Totemcarver without the totem does not get punished by such a play. For what its worth, in this particular position I would not bother playing-around Mind Control Tech, since even if they have it in hand they still only have a 25% chance of a good outcome. But let’s not dwell on that fact since such discussion is to miss the point of the example in the first place.

Long story short: I listed every play I could think of in this situation because it is a good habit to question everything.

Alright, so with that random detour finished with we can finally start discussing what we should do this turn. At first glance, there are two reasonable looking plays:

  1. Azure Drake
  2. Hero Power + Draenai Totemcarver

Play #1: Azure Drake

Of these two plays I think we can promptly dismiss Azure Drake; with only one mana remaining it is unlikely that we could top-deck anything immediately useful. Sure, if we knew we would draw into Zombie chow with 100% certainty we could make a case for this play. But as is, it strikes me that we are simply better off waiting since waiting allows for better mana utilisation (e.g. Turn 7 Azure Drake + Hero Power) and moreover we may also find a use for Spell Damage (e.g Lightning Storm) later on.

Another consideration is that the Drake is likely to allways be relevant, whereas Totemcarver is a lot more situational. As a general rule of thumb you should try to play your situational stuff first and your ‘always good’ stuff second.

With the Azure Drake play dismissed we can start thinking about some of the intricacies involved with playing Totemcarver:

Play #2: Hero Power + Draenai Totemcarver

First let’s tackle the easy problem:

“Where should we place Draenai?”  

Well, by placing Draenai on the far left we enable us to ‘chain the totems’, should we top-deck the Flametongue totem:

The above image demonstrates the concept of ‘totem chaining’; notice that the enemy War Golem is first attacked by Stoneclaw Totem and as it dies Healing Totem takes its place and so on we go down the assembly line. In such a situation a fairly big minion is taken out without requiring the shaman to invest a card. Note that this chaining could still be done if both Flametongue and Totemcarver were placed on the far right, but this would be inefficient since new totems are always spawned on the far right, which therefore means at some point during the game our 7/7 would end up being awkwardly placed in the middle of the board. To see how having your minions in the middle can be a problem just swap the position of Healing Totem with the 7/7 in the above position and notice that it would not possible to chain-kill the enemy War Golem; its death would therefore require the Shaman to use a card.

Incidentally, this logic applies to most Shaman boards (so long as the deck runs Flametongue Totem). If in doubt; put minions of the far left. I see no good reason to deviate from that advice in this case.

Alright, thats placement dealt with. Now we must tackle a harder problem:

 “Do we want Draenai to be a 7/7 or a 6/6?”

I think that the 6/6 is better, and I will provide two arguments that support that view:

Argument #1: BGH is also a minion!

The first question to ask is what card(s) would a 6/6 play-around that a 7/7 could lose to. The answer cannot be Keeper of the Grove since a 6/6 is silenced just as easily as a 7/7 is. The answer is, yes you’ve guessed it, good ‘ole Big Game Hunter (‘BGH’).

And yes, this is probably a card worth ‘playing-around’ because board presence is crucial for Shaman.

The more advanced readers (and particularly those that read my ‘playing around’ article) will realise that there is more than one way to ‘play-around’ a card. Moreover, such advanced readers might stop and ask an interesting question:

“Suppose the opponent does have Big Game Hunter in hand, shouldn’t I bait it out now in order to protect Dr. Boom?”

I sincerely hope a lot of you asked that question. As it so happens this is the question that inspired me to write this entire article, so needless to say I think the idea expressed in that question is interesting.

Strifecro in the game made a 6/6 and as it so happens he eventually follows up with a Dr. Boom that promptly died to BGH. So as a matter of fact the 7/7 would have protected Dr. Boom. Nonetheless, making the 6/6 is in my (and Strifecro’s) opinion correct. The question is; “Why?”

I think part of the awnser lies in the fact that so often we forget that BGH is a 4/2 body. If you lose 7/7 Draenai to BGH then how do you take care of the 4/2 minion (let alone whatever else the Druid does on with the rest of his/her turn)?  Unless you top-deck something the 4/2 is actually a major thorn in the side for the Shaman. For example, if you play Azure Drake then the Druid may find that the 4/2 BGH has a great trade to make. If Azure Drake does trade with BGH then the value (in terms of board control, tempo, card advantage) that BGH generated puts the Shaman in a very difficult (and likely losing) position.

Given the ease of that trade perhaps you want to play Dr. Boom instead next turn. But once again note the potential power of the 4/2 body: With the help of Swipe / Wrath the 7/7 is easily dealt with (moreover, in the case of Swipe you loose the boom bot‘s as well).

In short, being vulnerable to BGH is not bad just in terms of tempo, it is bad because the 4/2 body left behind is really good at messing up a lot of the Shaman’s plays on the next turn (ignoring Top-decks). Whereas in the situation where Dr. Boom gets BGH’d the boom bots can easily clear the 4/2, and may also clear any other minion the Druid played alongside BGH (luck permitting).

Alright, let’s move onto my second argument:

Argument #2: You always buy the Waterproof Televison

You are going against a Druid that is about to have 7 mana: Please tell me what cards a 7/7 can deal with that a 6/6 cannot.

  • Both are equally good against Keeper of the Grove, Ancient of War
  • a 7/7 is slightly better against a Chillmaw (supposing no Dragons in hand)
  • a 7/7 can trade with Dr. Boom
  • a 7/7 is better able to trade into a smaller minion, and then survive follow up removal (e.g a 7/7 after killing an Ancient of Lore is just outside of Swipe (AoE) range)
  • a 7/7 cannot be cleared by Force of Nature

Okay, so my list has found a few things, but now let’s rephrase the question slightly:

“Given our hand and Board State, What work can a 7/7 do that a 6/6 cannot?”

In the case of Dr. Boom and Chillmaw it is true that the 7/7 is a bit better, but in either of these cases we are likely to use the Hex that sits in our hand. Ergo, the difference between these minions in this regard is basically moot.

I also said that a 7/7 is a bit better versus Swipe (after killing a 5/5 Ancient of Lore), but when we consider the fact that we have a Healing Totem on board our 6/1 will become a 6/2 and so therefore Swipe is not great for the Druid in this case either!

And yes, technically its true that a 7/7 cannot be cleared as easily by Force of Nature. However, one copy of that card has been used already in the game. Ergo not only is it unlikely to happen in terms of raw probability but it is also unlikely to happen because using the second copy in this way would forgo the usual Druid ‘win condition’.

In short, I think that against a Druid in this particular position a 7/7 doesn’t really do much more ‘work’ than a 6/6.

So okay, a 6/6 and a 7/7 basically share the same strengths (if there are reasons for preferring the 7/7 over the 6/6 they are probably negligible. E.g. Claiming that the 7/7 does +1 face damage is– while true– hardly relevant). 

They also share the same weaknesses (e.g. Wrath + Swipe kills them both), except for the fact that the 7/7 also dies to BGH.

And now comes the rhetorical question:  If Televison A and Television B are both equally good in terms of price/picture quality but Television A is not waterproof what one do you buy? Do you really buy the non-waterproof one and simply pray you don’t spill your coffee on it?

I don’t know about you, but personally, I wouldn’t chance it. 🙂 [/spoiler]

…In the End…

In this section we show/tell you about what actually happened during the game. Click on the spoiler to find out!




And that conclude’s this week’s instalment of In-depth Turn Analysis.  Feel free to leave a comment letting us know what you think about the position, the series, our opinions, etc.

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