23 June 2014 - 19:00

Arena Play by Play (Mage) – Part 1: Fear The Sinister Strike!

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The Arena Play by Play series covers a complete Arena run with very detailed commentary - more so than the video format would allow. With almost every ingame event showcased on a separate screenshot, you can be sure you won't be missing out on anything! This also allows for a more extensive commentary than a video would. All the plays will be documented with pictures except when noted: I set my recording software to take a screenshot every second. (That means around 6-700 per game for me to go through and choose from.) I hope you will find it informative and entertaining!

Find the other parts here: Part 0 - Part 2 - - Part 3 -

- Part 4

With the draft of our arena deck concluded in the previous article, it’s time to play the first game! I wasn’t that confident about the success of this deck - I did only predict 6 wins, after all -  but let’s see if I can prove myself wrong.

In all seriousness, Rogue is not the worst pick in Arena. While it isn’t a Mage, a Druid or a Paladin (which I consider to be the premium class choices - Shaman isn't bad, I just can't stand it), it is nowhere near the levels of a Warlock (probably the most difficult one to play). Its hero ability is pretty good in the early game, which could be a big problem for me if I don’t have a fast enough start.

For all my worries about a slow beginning, this is a very good opening hand. I’ve got minions for the first three turns and I can always just use the coin to play the Arcane Missilesnext to it. (It’s 50-50% to kill a 3/2! Not bad at all!) I decide to keep it all.

I couldn’t resist the temptation of sending a “Well played” after that. Here’s the thing about Sinister Strike: don’t draft it. Ever. It is just terrible. For all the (very rare) games where you kill your opponent with it, you have 99 other ones where you would have been better off with a minion or a different spell. The bottom line is: the fact that my opponent played this card made me a lot more confident about my chances. I’ve drawn into my Ravenholdt Assassin, which is useless at the moment but could prove to be quite beneficial later on.

The Acidic Swamp Oozeis really not that scary. It really isn’t worth to use the valuable Frostbolt to kill it: I’d rather trade in the Faerie and develop my board. The Argent Squiregot daggered, of course, but it ate up both hits of the Wicked Knife so I am pretty satisfied.

My turn is actually pretty straightforward at this point: while I could use the coin to play the Ogre Magithis turn and then golem+missiles the next, I generally want to use the coin to smooth out my mana curve: if I have a 3-cost minion on 3 mana, I’m almost always going to play it. And the Harvest Golemis a pretty damn good card anyway: it is very difficult to remove. Also, my opponent’s next minion is almost guaranteed to die next turn due to the Magi and the four missiles. (I am also not going to go for a coin toss to kill the ooze with the missiles at the moment: I simply don’t have to take that kind of a risk.)

Also, the Rogue hits my face for one. Maybe that Sinister Strike was actually worth it? It has been 75% of his overall damage output on me so far, after all! Only time will tell if that proves to be the straw that, in retrospect, breaks the mage’s back. (To be fair, it probably won't be. But you never know!)

I know what you’re thinking. Buff the golem with the cleric, then use the coin and then Frostbolt to kill his minion. I’d have a very nice board for this stage of the game!

It’s such a neat idea that I’m not really sure why I didn’t go for it. The one possible issue is the lingering threat of Backstab, which could lead me to losing my advantage if my opponent has a strong minion to play next to it. I decide to take a very small risk and play the Ogre Magi, then use the missiles – I only need to hit the Raider once, then I can trade in the golem.

Two missiles to the face, two to the minion. I make the trade and await my opponent’s next move.

I could get myself a 5/5 right now by playing this card and then trade, but why would I do that when I can get myself a 5/5, a 3/2 and remove the enemy minion as well? This should put me in a very commanding position.

Apart from something really special, I would have gone for a 6/6 minion in the form of the Warlord: now I can go for a 7/7! I must say this is a pretty lucky draw: of course, an Assassinatewould still slow me down. Health advantage or not, this game is not done yet: most of my board could disappear in a moment’s notice.

Needless to say, I did not suicide my Cleric into the Frost Elementalfor absolutely no reason. I just did 3 damage to the face. Also, note my minor misplay! I should played both my cards to the right side of the board, to make sure that my big minions are on the very left and the very right side: that avoids a painful Betrayal.

Glad I didn’t get punished for that! The rogue makes the obvious trade (gives up the Frost Elemental for the buffed Ogre Magi), then daggers up and hits me in the face once again. Only 25 more dagger cuts and I will be dead! Gotta be careful about this.

This is an important moment in the game. Clearly, my opponent has not shown great resistance so far. No strong removal yet, no board pressure: should I be ultra-careful and trade the Mana Wyrm and the Warlord for the Sea Giant, guaranteeing my board control for now?

As much as I generally prefer cautious play, I opt against it here. Imagine what is the worst that could happen and ask yourself: could you deal with it? I would put my opponent on 4 health. Maybe they would throw a Yeti and a Defender of Argusat me. Can I deal with that? A 9/9 and a 5/6? I could essentially take it out just with what I’ve got on the board – not to mention that I can kill him in 4 turns without any spells or direct damage just with my hero ability. And this is the worst case scenario I can think of. I resist my urge to trade and go for face, playing the Ravenholdt Assassinalong the process. The stealth will cause him some headaches for sure.

I suppose we should also ask the question: should I worry about dying this turn? If I get daggered and hit by the Sea Giant, I still have 16 health. This is no Miracle Rogue. There is almost no way I can die here. No point worrying about that. Let’s bash his face in.

With that I successfully take down my first opponent in the Arena. It wasn’t a particularly difficult game: most of my choices were pretty straightforward I had a much stronger early game and it frankly didn’t seem like that I’ve been up against a well-drafted deck anyway. In retrospect, it may have been more efficient to play the cleric on the Harvest Golem on that particular turn, but it worked out great when I managed to buff the Ogre Magi. In any case, I probably need to play a little bit better later on! Not every opponent will draft a Sinister Strike, right?

In any case, I got off to a decent start: here’s hoping I can keep going in similar style! It’s only going to get more difficult from here on out, after all…

Find the other parts here: Part 0 - Part 2

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