In-Depth Turn Analysis #6: The Executioner’s Axe

In this article I analyse a situation I found myself in when playing Grim Patron Warrior.


Hi guys! Welcome to week 6 of In-Depth Turn Analysis. In this series we take a screenshot of a complex position and several writers I 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 the last article in the series, click here. If you have the time I recommend that you read that one first. The reason being is that this article is similar in several key respects.

Anyway, let’s begin!

About This Week’s Deck

You might now know what deck your opponent is playing, but in every game you should know what deck you are playing. Therefore, before we show you the position let’s have a quick look at our deck. If you have not seen/played a deck like this before I would recommend that you play a few games with it yourself and/or learn about the deck (e.g. Watch videos of the deck in action, and/or read articles about it, etc). If you take the effort to learn how the deck is supposed to work you will probably come up with a better answer when you study this week’s position.

Without further ado, this weeks deck is:


So as we can clearly see, it is a Grim Patron Combo Warrior deck. I started out by copying T3rat’s version of the deck (here), but then tweaked it a bit to suit my playstyle/the meta a bit more: I added another Armorsmith to help beat the Hunter match-up, I added Hellscream because I liked having an alternate win condition versus control, and I swapped the Inventor for a more potent 4-drop minion (i.e. Piloted Shredder).


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): Warsong Commander x1, Grim Patron x1, Whirlwind x1, The Coin, Death’s Bite x2, Emperor Thaurissan, plus a few cycle cards.

KEY CARDS USED (OPPONENT): Alexstrasza, Death’s Bite x1, Execute x2, Brawl x1, Shield Slam x1,

ANY OTHER NOTES: Both Warriors have a 1 Durability Death’s Bite equipped. Your Executes cost 0 mana because Thaurissan was played on a previous turn.  The Enemy Warrior has not attacked with his weapon for the last 2-3 turns.

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 I will discuss my thoughts on the matter.

Smashthings’ Analysis

[spoiler title=”Smashthings”]

Okay so three plays immediately call out to me in this position:

  1. Armor Up! + Pass.
  2. Armor Up! + Face with Weapon + Execute on Alex.
  3. Hellscream + Face with Weapon + Execute on Alex.

Play #1: Just Hero Power

I think we can dismiss play #1 pretty quickly since it doesn’t actually achieve anything: if we wait a turn, we give a greedy control deck more time to play his powerful stuff. And moreover, what are we hoping to draw into? What card could we get that would justify waiting?

Maybe we wait for Cruel Taskmaster? Such a card would boost our damage from 14 to 16. But the problem here is that our enemy can simply use his own Hero Power to bring himself to 17. So no, Cruel Taskmaster isn’t the card we need to draw into. And cruel Taskmaster is not alone in this regard: There just simply isn’t a card in the deck that can by itself bring us back into the game.

Play #2: Hero Power + Kill Alextrasza

This play is arguably worse than play #1. The reason being is that we do not have that many cards left in the deck that can be used to enrage our minions, and Hellscream is our win condition for this game. Using a weapon hit now means that our “Hellscream = win condition” strategy is entirely reliant on top-decks (e.g. we would need to draw Whirlwind or Cruel Taskmaster).

Thirdly, it is not even clear that we want/need to kill Alex! At 38 effective health the mighty dragon merely represents a 3-4 turn clock (and even with an Enraged Hellscream helping out we are still about 2 turns from death!). 

You maybe now wondering: If not something as big as Alex, what do we plan to use Execute on? The Answer: Taunts.

At the end of the day, we need to win this game quickly and Taunts are a major obstacle for a deck that runs no direct damage nor Silence effects. In short, we may want to keep hold of the Executes because we need a way to counter something like a Sludge Belcher.

Play#3: Hellscream + Face with Weapon + Execute. 

One off Lethal!

Okay, so we drop them to one life, clear their board and have a 10/8 monster on our side of the board. Next turn, even if they Armor Up! Fiery War Axe is still lethal. Thus, the enemy Warrior needs to kill Hellscream (which is why we Execute Alex) AND be at 4+ life by the end of his turn.

This sounds good, until you realise how many ways Control Warrior has that enable him to achieve both of these goals. For example: Hero Power + Big Game Hunter + Sludge Belcher. Another possibility is: Shield Block + Shieldmaiden + Shield Slam.

Let’s think about the Sludge Belcher case a little more deeply. To win the game from that point we probably need about 2-3 cards which is– assuming no card draw– going to be a wait of 2-3 turns.

If we could just magically add the three cards we need (i.e Warsong Commander, Grim Patron, Whirlwind) then we could equip “Win-Axe”, execute the Sludge Belcher and on the following turn exploit the 1/2 Taunt that was left behind with rampaging Patrons. With a whirlwind, we might just have the damage.

But ‘magically adding three cards to the hand’ is an absurd premise: if we want the cards we are going to have to wait for them, and in the meantime our Warrior opponent is likely to be playing his own cards that push him completely out of reach.

In summation then, If our opponent can counter Hellscream in the manor described above it is highly unlikely that there is anything we could do that would win us the game from that point. Using Hellscream this turn then represents a huge risk, but as I have argued elsewhere, when playing from behind high-risk plays often represent the best chance to win.  Moreover, since the other options we looked at were clearly terrible the correct play is obviously this one; we drop them to one life and hope for the best.

Or have we missed something?

In ‘Seeing possibilities’ I tried to argue that seeing something as possible is the very first-step in analysis. And once we see something, we can begin to evaluate it. Unfortunately though, because of the way the human mind works it is not always easy to see these ‘hidden plays’.  Okay, let’s consider possibility #4:

Play #4 ‘Hiding in Plain Sight’: Do Nothing! 

When looking at Play#1 (Hero Power + Pass), I suggested that is was a terrible play because it actually achieved nothing. And now I am about to advocate on behalf of an ostensibly worse play; how is doing nothing better than doing something?

Many of you have guessed it already: The answer is to do with Battle Rage.

At 6 armour, by using Hero Power we go up to 8 armor, meaning that should Alexstrasza attack face we remain at 30 life. Ergo, we cannot draw a card from Battle Rage. But should we stay at 6 armor by passing we can draw the card next turn.  It is worth pointing that the “do nothing” play is only an option because we are at 6 armor: one more or one less armor than that you might as just use hero power since it doesn’t alter the outcome of an Alex attack.

Okay, so thats the basic idea, now let’s get into some of the detail.

In the actual game, after I spend my turn doing nothing my opponent played Ysera, which seems like a perfectly reasonable play. Unfortunatly for my opponent however, this play does not counter my plan: Hellscream + Weapon Face, use the 0 mana executes, and then draw two cards with Battle Rage.

And now let me refer back to something I said when analysing play#3: I said that the problem was basically that should the Warrior have BGH + Sludge Belcher (or some other combo like it) we do not have a way back into the game because we most likely won’t be able to obtain the cards we need to win fast enough. But in this case, we have two extra cards! meaning that we still have a way to win should Hellscream be countered in one of the most efficient ways:

  • US: (Turn 9) Do nothing
  • THEM: Drop Ysera (note that because of Death’s Bite our Warrior Opponent would not want to play Sludge Belcher here).
  • US: Hellscream + Attack with Weapon + Execute + Battle Rage (+2 cards)
  • THEM: BGH + Sludge Belcher + Hero Power (=5 health)
  • US: Warsong Commander + Grim Patron + Commanding Shout.
  • …And now the enemy Warrior must counter the Patrons or he losses (note that one is a 3/3 and another is a 3/2, making it not too easy to use Death’s Bite).

So this sample line features reasonable plays from the opponent but it does assume we get some pretty lucky top-decks. Luck being on our side is not that important though, what matters is simply that we understand how waiting for a turn and getting the extra cards gave us a shot at winning.

Okay, so now that we have analysed the ‘do nothing’ play we have to consider whether it actually is better than the Turn Nine Hellscream play. I think you can make a genuine case for either play. For example, one major flaw in the do nothing play is that should the Warrior throw our weapon into a museum with Harrison Jones we end up in a terrible position. Essentially, I believe that the merits of these play comes down to how you assess the various risks; If you fear BGH + Sludge go play #4. If you fear Harrison Jones go play #3.

Smasthings 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!


In the game I passed, and on his turn he attacked with Alex and played Ysera. On the Following Turn I executed both minions and went face with everything. Battle Rage drew two cards. And at this point in the game I got really lucky: the best my opponent could do to clear Hellscream was to enrage his own and trade into it. At 3 hp, I just equipped the ‘Win Axe’ and won the game.



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.
  5. Seeing Possibilities (link). Opinion written by Smashthings.


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.