In Depth Turn Analysis #5: ‘Seeing possibilities’

Hi guys! Welcome to week #5 of In-Depth Turn Analysis. Sometimes it may seem all so simple at first glance…


Hi guys! Welcome to week #5 of In-Depth Turn Analysis. In this series we take a screenshot of a complex position and several writers discuss possible plays. In order to get the most from the series I would encourage all reader’s to do background research (if applicable) and think about what they would do before reading the opinions of the HSP writing team. It would also be a good idea to get a piece of paper and scribble down your thoughts on the position. By doing this you will get some insight as to what you may need to work on in order to improve.

To Read Last week’s instalment, Click HERE. (note: Premium membership required)

About this Week’s Puzzle

Some of you may have read my article on match-ups (note: its premium). That article has very much inspired what I intend to write about today. If you are able to do so I would strongly recommend that you read my match-up theory article and at least one of the other ‘In-Depth Turn Analysis’ articles before you tackle this one. The reason being is that it will provide a rich context for this article.

Now,  usually in the “In-Depth Turn Analysis” series we present a specific position and then try to navigate it; the series has never been about how you should play a deck “in general”. But this week, I want to get a bit more philosophical/theoretical than usual. I do have a particular position to show you, and I do provide some light commentary as well. But — unlike the rest of this series — my point is far more broad and abstract than the position itself.

The lesson I want to teach here today is the idea that even in the most seemingly simple positions lies complexity, and understanding that complexity makes us better players.

I know that this is a bit vague, but what I aim to teach will become clearer once we get started. Okay, let’s begin!

About This Week’s Deck

Without further ado, our deck for this week is:

  • Ramp Druid

To be honest, I don’t think it matters too much for the puzzle what exact list we use. This one will do…

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 HAND:  {4 cards:} Innervate, Keeper of the Grove, Druid of the Claw, Shade of Naxxramas 



ANY OTHER NOTES: Warrior has The Coin.

TURN HISTORY: Both players decided to skip Turn One.

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!

Smashthings’ Opinion


Okay, so it is Turn Two and our opponent skipped Turn One. In any match-up, the first ‘phase’ of combat is to identify the enemy archetype. In this case, our opponents play has not really revealed much about his deck, thus we need to think about what’s popular in the current meta and make assumptions based off of that. As I currently type (2015/05/08), ‘Grim Patron Warrior’ and ‘Control Warrior’ are both seeing a lot of play.

In short, we are probably fighting against Grim Patron or Control Warrior, but at this stage, we do not have enough information to work out which one of these two decks we are playing against. And since we don’t know exactly what we are facing yet, we don’t really know what our ‘strategical aims’ will be.

Okay, so the next thing on the list to do is start enumerating some of the options:

Play #1: Innervate + Shade

Play #2: Innervate + Keeper of the Grove

Play #3: Hero Power

Play #4: Do nothing  (We can quickly dismiss Play#4 due to Play#3 being strictly better.)

Okay, so let’s analyse these plays in order:

PLAY #1:  Innervate + Shade

This strikes me as a remarkably bad play. We are effectively giving up a whole card (i.e. Innervate) for +1/+1 on Shade. In neither of the match-ups (Us vs. Grim Patron Warrior, Us vs. Control Warrior) do we need to be this aggressive. Moreover, unless we top-deck something, innervating out a Shade on now leaves us without a good follow-up play on Turn Three.

In short this play is needlessly aggressive, it makes ‘curving out’ difficult and does not use our cards (i.e. innervate) effectively. This then, is a terrible option.

PLAY #2: Innervate + Keeper

This is also a bad play, but it is much better than play #1 above. For example, with this play we can drop Shade next turn, meaning that it doesn’t hurt our curve anywhere near as badly as play#1 did. Moreover, Keeper (since it is a 2/4 minion) is a bit too big for Warrior to deal with efficiently (e.g. At 4 health it would take two Fiery War Axe swings to kill).

But once again, I return to the idea that in neither of the Warrior match-ups do we need to be this aggressive. And furthermore, if we are playing against Control ‘silence‘ is a rather valuable effect to have in you hand, which seemingly makes this play somewhat short-sighted (for those of you that understand this reference, using keeper in this way would be a ‘Pyhrric play’).

But nonetheless, I suspect some of you may have been fooled into thinking that this was going to be ‘the solution’. You may have been fooled because you might have thought that I wouldn’t bother to write an article about a position where the ‘super obvious play’ (i.e. Hero Power) is the ‘correct one’.

Moreover, if you read Firebat Did What? you would have heard me defend Firebat’s deployment of Cruel Taskmaster, despite getting zero value from the battlecry. So if it was fine to get zero value from Taskmaster’s Battlecry in that case maybe you think I would argue that it is fine to get almost zero value from Keeper’s Battlecry in this case.

For those of you that where ‘fooled’, I bet most of you in game would have opted for Hero Power, but when I present the situation as a puzzle you end up tricking yourself into thinking that the obvious answer cannot be correct. Sometimes, the way we ‘frame’ problems unduly influences our opinion. Let this be a lesson to you, in future, try not to ‘over-think it’ and convince yourself that your answer is ‘too simple/easy’ to be correct.

Okay, so the best play is Hero Power. Let’s discuss it now.

Play #3: Hero Power

So you Shapeshift. Now what?

I wonder how many of you stopped and took notice of the title to this article; “Seeing possibilities”. I could have named the article almost anything (within reason!), so why did I choose this particular set of words?

Well, here’s the answer: How many of you recognised that there are two possible plays in this position?

PLAY #3(a): Hero Power + ‘Pass’

PLAY #3(b): Hero Power + ‘Attack Face’

…And this is why I called the article ‘seeing possibilities’ ! I bet hundreds of you failed to spot that we actually have a decision to make here. Simply seeing something as possible is the very first-step in analysis. The second step? Well, the second step is about evaluating the merits of the play. Let’s do that now.

Can we make any argument to justify using Hero power and then just passing? Under what circumstances might we want to avoid dealing one damage?

Against Warrior Control, I can’t really think of any good reason not to deal the one damage, but against ‘Grim Patron Warrior’ there is at least one thing worthy of consideration: by not dealing one face damage, we play around Battle Rage.

Battle Rage draws a card for every friendly damaged character (including the Hero). In the above scenario the Warrior did not have any armour which thus means dealing the 1 damage brings the Warrior to 29 health, ergo the Warrior now counts as damaged and will draw at least one card from Battle Rage.

Furthermore, Battle Rage was a dead card; with no minions and at full health the card effectively read; “2 mana, do nothing”. But after the attack it reads; “2 mana, draw a card”. In short, using Hero Power to attack the face ‘buffed’ Battle Rage from being a completely dead card to a slightly worse version of Shiv.

At this juncture, it is worth pointing out that during the early stages of the game the ‘game-plan’ of ‘Grim Patron Warrior’ is basically to do two things:

  1. Control the board with weapons
  2. Cycle through the deck.

Th3 RaT got Rank#1 Legend with Grim Patron Warrior. And in his guide he makes the following recommendation:

 “Even against aggressive decks if you do not have what you need to win the game already, you’ll want to prioritize cycling draw spells like Battle Rage over using your hero power. Against ‘Freeze Mage’ your hero power is good, everyone knows this, but if given the option on Turn Two, I would cycle Commanding Shout over hitting that little circle. I do not recommend using armor up! unless you absolutely have to in order to survive, have nothing to do, or are waiting to combo your opponent.” 

Given his success with the deck we should probably consider this good advice to follow. 🙂 I have understood this to mean that if you have no better option available, then it is probably better do play Battle Rage on Turn Two to draw a single card than it is to hold onto it with the aim of getting significant value out of it later. In short, ‘Grim Patron Warrior’ is happy to play ‘a worse Shiv’ on Turn Two, should there be no other option. So, by dealing damage with our Druid Hero Power it seems that we may have turned a dead card into something worth playing on Turn 2! 

Furthermore,  for ‘Grim Patron Warrior’ armour gain can be quite awkward for the deck (if at full health), for the simple reason that the deck wants to draw/cycle as many cards as possible: ergo Battle Rage is substantially better when used at 29 life than at 30. The problem the Warrior sometimes faces is that amour prevents them from going to 29 (or less) life.

To demonstrate that point let’s assume that the Warrior in the situation above does have Battle Rage in hand, as well as a few other situational cards.

If we hit with Our Hero Power, the Warrior is at 29 life and can therefore cycle Battle Rage (which is, as discussed above’, ‘good enough’ value from the card and preferable to Hero Power): By attacking we give the Warrior a reasonable play.

But what if we don’t hit? Well, let’s imagine the game takes the following course:

  • On Turn Two the Warrior uses Hero Power since he has nothing better (He is now at 30 Health, with 2 Amour).
  • On Turn Three let’s suppose we drop the Shade, The Warrior responds with Acolyte of Pain.
  • On on Turn Four we play Keeper (silencing the Acolyte) and the Warrior Responds with Death’s Bite, killing said Keeper.

But now notice that because Keeper of the Grove only has two attack the Warrior is still at full life. If the Druid spends Turn Five playing Wild Growth and Wrath (Targeting Acolyte) then there would be no way for the Warrior to damage himself and so therefore Battle Rage is not drawing that extra card! So as we can see, gaining amour on Turn 2 has greatly limited the usefulness of Battle Rage several turns in the future.

Okay so let’s wrap this article up! What should we do in this position? Well, for the ‘not hitting the face’ to be correct a few things need to be the case:

  1. That we are playing against Grim Patron Warrior
  2. That by not damaging the Warrior we deny Battle Rage value.

Those are two fairly big assumptions to make. But on the flip-side, the opportunity cost is merely one damage. And moreover, Warrior Control is a favourable match-up for Druid anyway, meaning that we can probably afford to give up one damage in that match-up.

So what’s the best play here? Well, in truth I really don’t know and no doubt that there will be proponents on both sides of the fence.

But if you only learn one thing from this week’s article please let it be this: I have managed to take a seemingly simple position and somehow managed to provide a fairly complex analysis of it! …Yes, I did just write over 1000 words on whether we should deal one damage to a Warrior on Turn Two or not!!

Weak players will rush their turns and will be oblivious to this level of detail. Stronger players meanwhile get to be so strong by understanding the difficulties, nuances, and choices contained within even the most simple of positions.

If you allow me some mildly-offensive humour I want to conclude this article with a mere two words of advice:

Rope. Bitches!

I hope some of you get that reference!

Anyway, Smashthings out!


Illustrating the point…

About two-three days ago I uploaded a video with me playing a couple of games with Grim Patron. Anyway, I just had a quick look at my own video and was totally shocked by how perfect two of the games are for this article!


Notice how clunky my hand was!  The Druid played Wild Growth on Turn Two which meant that my Battle Rages were sitting idle. And then by the time he drops Sludge Belcher I was at four amour, meaning that I couldn’t attack in and draw cards!

As an interesting side note, writing articles forces you to think about the game. What I find so fascinating is that now that I have written this article, I can’t help but feel that I fundamentally misplayed the position: given my hand I now think I probably should have skipped my turn rather than building up the armour with Hero Power. But skipping the turn was not a possibility I saw during the game! So there you have it! the very act of researching and writing articles seems to be improving my own play!


In this game the Druid took me to 29 life on Turn Two. And on Turn Four I as the Warrior had the option of punishing the Druids “mistake”. I attack the Keeper, drop the Unstable Ghoul and draw two cards (instead of the one) from Battle Rage.

What I find so brilliant about Game 2 is that because you are seeing the game from the Warrior’s Perspective, you get to see the actual impact the Druid’s decision to attack had on the game.

Whereas, when studying the decision from the Druid’s perspective (as I did above) it feels like the discussion is a lot more abstract and a bit whimsical; you ask yourself a bunch of “what if” questions without ever truly knowing what impact (if any) your choice will make.


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.

And if you like it, don’t forget to leave a thumbs up!

Series Recap

In the spoiler below, you will find a list of all articles in this Series.


Note that the Orange asterisks ( *** ) in the list below denotes premium content.

  1. Bombs & Fire (link), Opinions written by Smasthings, Lightsoutace, K3lv.
  2. *** War Coach (link), Opinions written by Smashthings, K3lv, Darkfrost, Nuba, Joseph.
  3. Firebat Did What? (link). Opinion written by Smashthings.
  4. *** By Fire Be Purged! (link). Opinions written by Smasthings, Modded, K3lv.


Reader Submissions

If you have a position you would like us to look at please do post a link to it in the comments below.  If you would like to submit a position we would ask however that you follow a few basic rules:

  1. Submit an interesting position (can be Arena, but with that said the focus of this series shall be on constructed)
  2. Submit a high quality image in a format we can use (Imgur links are fine).
  3. Don’t constantly repost the same position.
  4. Supply all the ‘extra data’ we need. Deck Lists (Imgur link is fine), cards played, etc.
  5. If you have a Youtube video or a permanent twitch VOD with how the game ended that’s a bonus but not necessary.