In-depth Turn Analysis #9: Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Giant?

Hi guys! Welcome to Episode #9 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: Grim Patron Warrior (again 🙂 ) This week’s contributors:  Smashthings. In this episode we will be looking at a really tough position I found myself in against […]


Hi guys! Welcome to Episode #9 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: Grim Patron Warrior (again 🙂 )
  • This week’s contributors:  Smashthings.

In this episode we will be looking at a really tough position I found myself in against a Warlock on Ladder (Rank 3).

Okay, Let’s begin!

About This Week’s Deck

The deck used in this episode is:



You can learn more about the deck by clicking on the following links:


Th3 Rat’s Grim Patron Warrior Guide can be found by clicking here.  I’ll also embeded a Youtube video of me playing a few games on Ladder. While these sources do not use the exact list we are using today, these sources should nonetheless provide some insight as to how Grim Patron Warrior works.


The Situation

Okay, so let’s look at the position shall we?  (please not that if you are struggling to read the text try right clicking “open in new tab“. This will allow you see a larger version on the image.)

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): Please see the tracker on the right-hand side of image; greyed out cards have been used up.

KEY CARDS USED (OPPONENT): Please see the tracker on the left-hand side of image; the cards that are listed have either been used up or are currently on board.

ANY OTHER NOTES: Opponent still has The Coin

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 let’s start by stating the Bloody obvious: Our opponent is running ‘Handlock’ and as it so happens this is a bad match-up.

There are a few reasons why Handlock is a bad match-up for us; the high amount of heal (e.g. Antique Healbot, Lord Jaraxxus), that fact that there are so few small minions (i.e whose attack >= 2) that Grim Patron can ‘feed on’, and also, since this version is not running Brawl, ‘direct damage’ or ‘Silence’ means that Taunted Giants and Drakes represent a HUGE roadblock for us to get through.

Okay, so it’s a bad match-up. And judging from both the board and our Hand we know that we are in terrible shape. What do you do in bad match-ups and/or in bad positions? Well, you should be very tolerant of risk. This is because the ‘safe plays’ usually won’t work.

Alright, thats some of the theory dealt with (the rest of it I’ll cover as we go along). Usually the next step in the process is to list the plays up for consideration. But when studying this position I felt that there were too many possible plays for my usual sort of  exhaustive ‘brute force‘ analysis to be feasible.

My analysis in this series is usually takes a ‘bottom-up’ approach, but today I thought I would try a ‘top-down’ approach. In other words, instead of looking at each individual line of play and comparing them with one another today I’m going to find the ‘best play’ by thinking about the needs of the deck and the match-up and see what play best matches these needs.

Okay, so let’s consider some of the general strategies we have available:

  1. The ‘Kill Something!’ play: e.g Warsong Commander + Unstable Ghoul + Execute, or Inner Rage/Cruel Taskmaster + Execute combo.
  2. The ‘I Really Want Cards!’ play: i.e. Acolyte of Pain + Inner Rage + Cruel Taskmaster.
  3. The ‘Just spam minions’ play: e.g Acolyte of Pain/Cruel Taskmaster/Unstable Ghoul/Warsong Commander
  4. The ‘I skip my turn’ play: i.e. Hero Power, pass.
  5. The ‘Hybrid’ Play: (see below)

The fifth general strategy we have available is to mix one or two of the other strategies, for example: We could kill something with Inner Rage + Execute (# 1), Or could draw two cards wih Acolyte of Pain + Inner Rage + Cruel Taskmaster (#2). But there is also a third way: Acolyte + Inner Rage to draw a card but then use Cruel Taskmaster on the Giant/Sludge Belcher in order to execute it.

Alright so let’s start the ‘top-down’ analysis:

Can we play Warsong Commander this turn? Yes/No.

Answer: Almost certainly not.

Warsong Commander is our win condition: It is our best and probably only chance of winning the game. At 8 health, it might be tempting to think that we could finish the game with weapons, For example, Death’s Bite starts a two-turn clock the moment we hit their face (which, due to the Sludge Belcher on board, could take us a while to start said clock). Thus the clock Death’s Bite starts ticking is probably too slow owing to the number of Taunts and Heals likely remaining in the opponents deck.

I feel that unless we draw into another copy (17 cards left in deck) we simply cannot afford to play the commander until it outright wins us the game; basically, Warsong Commander combo’s are the only things ‘fast enough’ to win the game.

Sure, we could play the card now and simply hope it survives but I feel that this is simply too risky. 

In short, Warsong Commander is the win condition and thus we cannot play it until we are in a position to win the game with it.

Can we draw lots of Cards this turn? Yes/No.

Answer: Probably not.

The problem with dropping an Acolyte of Pain and then casting Cruel Taskmaster and/or Inner Rage is two fold: (a) it is not clear what we want to draw into (b) we are giving up a lot of damage.

Okay so what could we draw into?  Well, if we are hoping for a Big Game Hunter (1 in 17 chance) to use this turn then we need to use Inner Rage before drawing with use Cruel Taskmaster (Acolyte + Taskmaster + BGH = 8 mana, and we have 7 this turn). In many ways being forced to use the cards in this order is significant; given that mana is a key obstacle for us right now the 0 mana card is arguably better than the taskmaster, which is why it would be a shame to use it.

But, if we don’t care about playing BGH this turn, then we can draw with the Taskmaster and hope to set something up next turn.

The cards we would be looking for here are: Grommash Hellscream, Frothing Berserker, BGH, and possibly Grim Patron (5 in 17 chance).

Let’s suppose we play the Taskmaster and don’t draw into one of these cards (which statistically is the more likely case). We might feel the need to burn the Inner Rage as well, and thus we encounter the second problem.

With Warsong Commander, Cruel Taskmaster often represents 4 damage for 2 mana. Inner Rage typically represents 2 damage for 0 mana. Basically these cards represent 6 damage and our opponent is at 8 health. This therefore obviously means we are just two damage short (if Sludge Belcher wasn’t in the way, that is).

Thus, the problem we have is that if we use these cards to draw then that means we must find the damage from some other source: We would be throwing away two of our most damage-efficient cards for a fairly slim chance of drawing something better.

Notice also that both Cruel Taskmaster and Inner Rage often represent a lot more damage that the numbers I gave above. For example, Grim Patron/Grommash Hellscream/ Frothing Berserker all do additional damage with these two cards.  

Have you spotted the irony? We want to draw Patron’s and Froathing’s. We want to draw them sooo much that we are willing to use the supporting cast of cards that make them so brilliant!

In short, the position we are in is a bit paradoxical; we want to draw cards but at the same time we cannot afford to use the cards that allow us to draw. 

Can we skip this turn? Yes/No.

Answer: Almost Certainly not.

In such a position against Handlock time is of the essence: slow plays are just tantamount to ruin. Make no mistake, there are situations where as Grim Patron Warrior I would advocate making an incredibly slow play but I feel that this just isn’t one of them.

Suppose — rather charitably — that we do nothing and the Warlock does nothing with as well. Even in this highly unlikely scenario, unless the two cards we draw secure the win the Warlock is probably fine. Why? Because by waiting the Warlock has enough mana to transform into Lord Jaraxxus.  The point I am making here is that time is not on our side,  whatever we do decide to play this turn it must in some way put pressure on the Warlock.

Can we Execute the Giant this turn? Yes/No.

Answer: Probably not.

I am fully aware that most of my readers would probably consider executing the Giant as one of the best plays in the position. And yet, I feel it is incorrect.

I think this play illustrates the ‘beginner’s trap’ of trying to get value out of ones cards. And Since this series is aimed at being educational this is a rather nice little discovery; It means that there is something I can teach you!

Okay, so why is Executing the Giant Bad?

I mentioned at the very beginning of the analysis that this particular version on Grim Patron struggles to deal with big taunts; without Brawl, or ways to ignore Taunts (e.g. Silence, ‘Direct Damage’) our only ways to get past them is to do with weapon/minion damage, or use an Execute combo/BGH.

So here’s the salient point: If you Execute the Giant and on their turn the Warlock  Taunts a Twilight Drake how do you win the game?

In Hearthstone, the beginner makes ‘value plays’ whereas the pro will make the plays that are most conducive to winning: as already mentioned, this game needs to end soon and we do not have the luxury of drawing cards. Therefore, since we are not likely to draw a second copy of Execute and/or a copy of BGH the sole execute in hand most likely represents our last and only chance of pushing through a big Taunt.

The only other play worth considering is whether one should Execute the Sludge Belcher.

Unlike Executing the Giant, casting Execute on the Sludge Belcher does bring us that bit closer to wining the game. However, using the Execute on Sludge Belcher right now does mean that we may struggle to deal with any other Taunt minion the Warlock may play. Moreover, refer back to what I said about drawing cards; there is a danger that if we use Inner Rage/Cruel Taskmaster we may lack the damage to finish the game.

In short; Executing the Giant in a play that is inconsistent with our win condition. Moreover, in order to enable the execute we must use our rather valuable damage spells.

“But Smashthings!”, I hear you cry; “Don’t we just lose if we let 11 damage stay on board?” By not executing the Giant our death is of course a possibility: even with armor up! we would still die to double Darkbomb or Arcane Golem combo’s should the Warlock have those cards (note that the cards our opponent has played so far are consistent with both ‘Handlock’ and ‘Combo-lock’).

To which, I would like to make two basic points: (1) we need to take risks because we are behind; and counting on our opponent not have 2-3 specific cards seems like a reasonable risk to take. (2) There is a difference between ‘playing to win’ and ‘playing to not lose’; by holding onto the Execute we might die next turn but we also give ourselves a chance to win the game. Meanwhile, burning the execute now greatly increases the chance that we live a single turn but greatly reduces our odds of winning the game.

Can we make some sort of ‘Hybrid’ play this turn? Yes/No.

Answer: Probably not.

Notice that so far most of my analysis has been rather absolute: I argued that we should not draw cards, play Warsong Commander, or Execute FULL STOP.  So, if we can’t play Warsong Commander (FULL STOP), and we can’t play for cards (FULL STOP) then it necessarily follows that we can’t do some sort of mix of the two.

So What Can we do this turn?

Answer: Play minions.

By the process of elimination we know that we must play minions this turn: But not just any minion! The Analysis has also ruled out the use of Cruel Taskmaster and Warong Commander. Which leaves us only two possibilities.

And so, without further ado the ‘best play’ (according to me) is:

  • Hero Power + Unstable Ghoul + Acolyte of Pain

As it turns out, this play has a few interesting properties that are worth discussing.

Firstly, when Analysing the card draw play I claimed that while it is certainly true that we want cards, there are very few cards we could draw into that would be useful this turn (BGH is basically the only card that is immediately useful), thus we would be drawing cards with a hope of gaining a powerful next turn.  Moreover, drawing the cards came at the cost of damage.

But with this play, with luck on our side (and remember we are playing from behind in a bad match-up which therefore means hoping for a ‘bit of luck’ is acceptable), the Warlock will kill the Unstable Ghoul without taking out the Acolyte first and/or silencing it. Which would mean that we draw two cards for the next turn but, rather crucially, we don’t have to give up our damage cards in return.

What other interesting properties does this play have? Well, remember when talking about Execute I mentioned two problems; the first of which being that we need to save the card to deal with big taunts and the second problem being that we would have to use a valuable damage dealing card (e.g. Inner Rage) in order to enable the execute. Well, notice that this play deals with the second problem (assuming Unstable Ghouls deathrattle triggers and/or the Warlock doesn’t heal up the Giant); we enable a next turn Execute (on Sludge Belcher or the Giant) without having to use up one of our damage cards.

And lastly, I did mention that keeping the Giant alive means that there was some (albeit small) chance that we die on the Warlock’s next turn? Well, by playing Hero Power and a taunt means that the chances that we die have reduced quite significantly (unless the Warlock is playing ‘Combo-lock’).

Before wrapping up I would like to finish by saying that the ‘best play’ in the position has not ‘dug us out of a hole’, so to speak. After this play we are still in terrible shape and we might as well instantly concede should Healbot be played next turn. Taunts and Loatheb could also be problematic.

But anyway, that concludes my analysis. Let me know in the comments below if prefer this ‘top-down’ style of analysis more than the ‘bottom-up’ stuff I usually do.

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!


The game is embeded below. It is worth pointing out that I got extremely lucky here; In the late stages of the game I needed my opponent to have absolutely nothing relevant in hand for several turns in a row in order to win.

It should also be noted that I consider Turn Two Acidic Swamp Ooze a questionable play: as Handlock, Fiery War Axe isn’t particularly threatening. I feel that it would have been much better to try and take out a Death’s Bite with it.

And on about Turn Four I was probably right to kill the Drake with the Weapon; while this does open me up to Hellfire, allowing the Drake to live would leave me vulnerable to a Shadowflame.

Overall I think it was an interesting game, maybe you will too. 🙂   Actual position we analysed today starts at: 5:50



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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