In-Depth Turn Analysis #15: Dat Sylvanas tho

Hi guys! Welcome to Episode 15 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: Freeze Mage This week’s contributors:  Smashthings This week we will be looking at a position Thijs found himself in playing as Freeze Mage against Eloise’s Midrange Paladin […]


Hi guys! Welcome to Episode 15 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: Freeze Mage
  • This week’s contributors:  Smashthings

This week we will be looking at a position Thijs found himself in playing as Freeze Mage against Eloise’s Midrange Paladin in Phase Two of the ‘Archon Team League Championships‘.

Okay, Let’s begin!

About This Week’s Deck

The deck used in this episode is:


Since this game was playing in a team league we know the exact list of both players (source).

You can learn more about how to play as Freeze Mage checking out HSP’s catalogue of Freeze Mage guides (clicky here).

Also, a while back I wrote a detailed guide about how to play as Mid-range Paladin against Freeze Mage. Even though that guide is out-dated, it should nonetheless explain a number of the strategical ideas that the Paladin can try in order to win this traditionally un-favoured match-up. By the way, I never did get round to writing part II of that guide and probably never will. So yeah, searching HSP for part two would be a waste of time. 🙂


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.

YOUR MANA:    10

NUMBER OF CARDS IN HAND (OPPONENT):  2 (Defender of Argus, Consecration)

YOUR HAND: 2x Ice Lance, Ice Block, archmage-antonidas

KEY CARDS USED (YOU): 2x Mad Scientist, Acolyte of Pain, Ice Block, Bloodmage Thalnos, Ice Barrier, Cone of Cold, Loot Hoarder, 2x Antique Healbot, Doomsayer, 2x Frost Nova, Alexstrasza, Blizzard, Flamestrike

KEY CARDS USED (OPPONENT): Knife Juggler, 2x Shielded Minibot, Ironbeak Owl, Piloted Shredder, Murloc Knight, Consecration, Dr. Boom, 2x Aldor Peacekeeper, Tuskarr Jouster, Defender of Argus, sylvanas-windrunner, tirion-fordring


  • The Secret in play is Ice Block.
  • The Paladin’s equipped weapon is Ashbringer.
  • Take care to note that Sylvanas Windrunner has One Health, Alexstrasza only has One Attack, and the Paladin has Nineteen Life. (P.s. I only mention these values in case the image turns out to be a bit ‘blurry’). 
  • Although you can see Elosies hand, try not to let that influence your play (since in actual games you never get to see what your opponent is holding onto). 

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 things are not looking too good for Thjis in this spot; the Paladin has a decent amount of life and a nice board. More importantly though, Thjis does not have the damage nor does he have card draw in hand.

Also note that in lots of situations against Freeze Mage Sylvanas Windrunner is more of a liability for Paladin than a strength, owing to the fact that Freeze Mage can often exploit the Deathrattle by playing Doomsayer. But in this position such a play is not possible and so therefore the 5/1 Sylvanas Windrunner is a nuisance that isn’t easy to deal with.

We can summarise the problems Thjis faces in a few bullet points:

  • Not enough damage (no Fireball‘s).
  • No Card Draw.
  • Strong Enemy Board capable of doing a lot of damage,  1/8 Alexstrasza is basically useless.
  • 5/1 Sylvanas Windrunner is really bloody annoying.
  • The Paladin still has a lot of Heal left in the deck (e.g. 2x Truesilver Champion, Lay on Hands, etc).
  • With so few cards currently in hand, the options for this turn are limited.

In a word, the picture I paint is grim.

What do you do in difficult situations? Well, I have said it numerous times before and will probably say it plenty more times in the future as well: When playing from behind, we must be willing to take risks; ‘safe plays’ rarely work.

We must remember that Freeze Mage is a ‘combo deck’ that only has a limited amount of damage in the deck, and this problem is compounded by the fact the Paladin has a lot of heal remaining. In other words, If Thijs tried to play this position in a ‘slow controlling manner’ he would probably lose owing to the fact that Eloise would probably manage to top-deck enough Heal to put her outside of range. In other words, time is not on Thijs’s side; if he is to win he must act quickly and decisively.

So far, I have discussed this position from a strategical point of view, the advantage of doing this is that without even looking at our options we already kind-of-know what the ‘correct play’ might look like: The play we need to find in the position will be dynamic and possibly high-risk.

Okay, so let’s list a few options (by the way, “T?” is shorthand for the question: ‘What should you target with X?’) :

  1. Just Pass
  2. Attack something with Alexstrasza (T?) and then use Hero Power (T?)
  3. Double/single Ice Lance (T?), Hero Power (T?), Alex Attack (T?)
  4. Play Archamage + Double/Single Ice Lance (T?), Hero Power (T?)

Given the strategical points I outlined above I think option #4 is the only reasonable play that stands a chance at wining the game. Everything else is just too slow/passive.  Okay, so let’s look at option #4 in more depth:

The Only Option: Archamage + Ice Lance

I think the first question to ask is whether we want to play one or both Ice lances. And I think the answer is most probably two. Although only using the one allows us to squeeze in the Hero Power the problem is that there is no guarantee that Antonidas will be on the board next turn (e.g. If we Freeze Sylvanas Windrunner we prevent the steal, but then it dies to Ashbringer + minions. If we Freeze the face Antonidas is easily stolen), and in the position Thijs needs as much damage as he can get hold of.  In short; we must play double Ice lance because in order to win we need both of those fireballs.

Okay, so now comes the tricky question:

“What do we cast the Ice lances on?”

And this is where things become interesting and a little complex; we can either Freeze two separate targets or with can Freeze + deal four damage to any single target. By my count there are four basic options:

  1. Double Freeze #1: Face +Sylvanas Windrunner
  2. Double Freeze #2: Sylvanas Windrunner + Peacekeeper
  3. Four Damage Play #1: Face + Face
  4. Four Damage Play #2: Peacekeeper + Peacekeeper

Of these options I am going to immediately dismiss the ‘killing Peacekeeper play (#4)’ since compared to the other options it seems to suck (what does this play achieve, exactly?). This therefore leaves three reasonable options for worthy of study:

The Double Freeze Play #1

This seems to be the play that Amaz  and Noxious were looking at when live commentating the game. And so, dear reader, if you made this ‘mistake’ you are in good company. Although to be fair to Amaz and Noxious I think that if they were actually players in this match and not a commentators they both would have soon seen why this play is bad and have gone for something else instead.

Okay so with this play we Freeze Sylvanas Windrunner and Freeze the Face (which prevents the use of Ashbringer). This play generates two fireballs and prevents Antonidas from being stolen. However, I don’t think that this is a winning play because the 4/4 Peacekeeper in conjunction with the other minions will easily kill Antonidas (and that means no Fireballs #3 and #4 for us!).

Therefore by the end of this play the Paladin will be at 19 life and we only have 12 damage in hand.  To win the game from this point we would need at least two turns of excellent top-decks. And even then, the Paladin could heal outside of range in the meantime.

For example, top-decking Fireball and then a second Fireball might not be enough: this pair of (excellent) top-decks gives you 26 damage over two turns. But if the Paladin draws into Lay on Hands that’s game. Note also that if you are slightly less lucky and ‘only top-deck‘ two Frostbolt’s in a row then you will have about 20 over two turns. At 19 health Truesilver Champion could provide enough of a heal for the Paladin to survive.

In short, even with incredible top-decks this play still might not win. With Mediocre top-decks you probably won’t win the game at all (I think Thjis has a ‘window of 3-4 turns’ to win the game. If the game goes longer than that the Mage will probably just lose ‘by default’).  

Overall then, this play requires incredible amounts of luck in order to win.  But do we have a better play?

The Double Freeze Play #2

Okay, so what are the merits of Freezing Aldor Peacekeeper and Sylvanas Windrunner?

In my mind the key advantage of this play is that if Antondis survives you give yourself another round of fetching Fireballs, and with four Fireballs you ought to easily have enough damage to win. Remember also that Frostbolt’s and Fireball’s remain in Thjis’s deck, and so therefore even Lay on Hands will be unable to Heal outside of range.

On board the Paladin has 4 damage from (unfrozen) minions, which means that unless Elosie wants to use her face she has to find 3 damage or else Antonidas survives. So it would seem as if Eloise is caught between a rock and a hard place: If Antonidas survives the turn she loses, and if she takes 5 damage to the face in order to kill Antonidas she loses to a top-decks Frostbolt (note that since both Peacekeepers have been used, Eloise doesn’t have a way to not take 5 damage, should she use the weapon).

Okay so this play sound good. Whats the problem?  Well, the problem is that there are a lots of cards that the Paladin could have in hand/draw into that deal the much-needed 3-damage: equipping Truesilver Champion leaves you at 16 life (which is therefore outside of Fireball x2 + Frostbolt range), and Quartermaster would allow Eloise to kill Antonidas without taking Face Damage at all. And then there is Equality, or a combination of cards (such as what she actually had in hand: Argus + Consecration) that could also do it.

In short, this play looks like a good try until you realise the number of possible ‘outs’ the Paladin could potentially have/draw into.

The Four Damage Play #1

This is the play Thjis went with during the game, it is also the play I was immediately drawn to as well.

I think what makes this play so hard to spot is that Sylvanas Windrunner will so easily steal Antonidas. Not only will that give the Paladin a 5/7 minion to swing with it also represents a huge amount of damage if the Paladin has just one spell (and since we can see Elosie’s hand we know that the Paladin will get a nice bunch of Fireballs, if she wants them). In short, this play means that the Paladin will have enough damage to win the game very quickly.

So why go for this play then? Well, I think this play is a really good try to win the game because by dropping the Paladin to 15 life you set up a potential top-deck lethal of Frostbolt (assuming no Heal from the Paladin, of course). At this point in the game approximately 9-10 cards are left in the deck, which therefore means Thjis has gone for a 20-ish percent change to immediately win the game.

Thijs’s chance of winning of top-decking enough damage to win the game is actually quite a bit higher than that however since he has the Ice block in hand. Again, assuming no heal from the Paladin Thjis actually has two or maybe even three chances to draw. Top-decking Arcane Intellect may, for example, allow him to win over 2-3 turns.

Overall, this is an excellent ‘to win’ play, especially given that is left in Thijs’s deck.

Also take care to note that since the face is Frozen the only ‘outs’ are Lay on Hands and the Tuskarr Jouster (Frozen characters cannot swing with Truesilver Champions).

Okay, so we now know what we are doing with the Ice Lances. Only one question remains: “What do we do with Alexstrasza?”

Utilising Alexstrasza

During the game, Thjis double Ice Lances face and then paused for a moment. I am fairly certain that this was because after making the Ice lance play he suddenly identified a separate problem; “Do I pass or do I attack a Taunt with Alexstrasza?”

I think the correct option here is just to pass, and by looking at the board it is easy to see why. Let’s look at not attacking option first.

The Paladin needs to kill the Mage’s 1/8 Alexstrasza in order to steal Antonidas with 100% certainty. Sylvanas Windrunner must attack, which means that the other minions need to 3 damage in order to kill it.

If you look at the Paladin’s board, dealing 3 damage cannot be done efficiently; Attacking with Peacekeeper for example is one damage of ‘overkill’ (and likewise you would need to use BOTH of the 2-attack minions to get the job done). Since stealing Antondias is a must such attacks must be made, and if you are attacking minions you are not attacking face. In other words, passing with Alexstrasza effectively ‘heals’ the Mage for about four points of damage.

Now compare this to the case where you attack the 4/4: In this case Sylvanas can hit Alex straight away without the help of any other minion. Ergo, the now 4/3 peacekeeper is able to go face. In this case the Mage has 4 less health than if he just passed.

What if you attack the 2/2 Taunt? In this case the 2/1 can this swing into Alex and then Sylvanas Windrunner can then finish off. Therefore, in this case the Mage has 2 less health when compared to the situation where you just pass.

In short, attacking with Alexstrasza just means that he cannot tank as much damage. Attacking only makes the Mage’s board easier to deal with.

In Conclusion…

In conclusion I feel that Thjis played this turn perfectly; double Ice lance to the face represented the best chance to win and moreover not attacking with Alexstrasza was a technically sound decision as well.

Hopefully you guys learnt something. Smashthings’ Out![/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!


Here is a link to the Twitch Vod. The game starts at about 26 minutes in.

If that link doesn’t work for you you can always try to find the game by checking out Amaz’s Youtube playlist.



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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