28 August 2014 - 17:00

Testing the Waters for Sharks

You have an awesome hand, the board is clear and you play Ragnaros, only to have it Polymorphed the next turn. So how do we deal with this?
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Introduction

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It's happened to all of us before.  You have an awesome hand, the board is clear and you play Ragnaros the Firelord, only to get Polymorphed the next turn.  Or you play Sylvanas Windrunnerand it gets silenced by a meager Ironbeak Owl.

Or for me, it would be running a Zoolock and having board control only to get Flamestriked.  Nothing makes me want to (?°?°)?? ??? more.  So seriously, what can we do?  Two options are:

  1. Pray they don't have your perfect counter.  (Please let me know what your win-rates are with this option)
  2. Try to plan ahead and bait the spells (the sharks) if you can.

This article is going to focus on option 2.  First we will explore our counter-to-our-counter options, and then we will go into some depth for going up against each class.

Silence: The Ultimate Counter

Let's talk about Silence.  Silence is arguably the strongest counter to any minion with an ability because of the painfully obvious: It negates the ability.  Once silenced, there is little you can do to get the value of that minion back.  Once silenced, you cannot silence it again to reverse-silence the minion, so what do you do?

Countering the Counter

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Your best bet is returning that card to your hand.  Youthful Brewmasterand other related cards is your best (drinking) friend.  When a card is returned to your hand, all buffs and nerfs are removed, including silence.  This way you can re-summon the minion fresh.  However that eats up some mana to return the card to your hand somehow, and then resummon the same minion, so be aware.

This isn't necessarily the best situation, because how often are you going to put one of these Brewmaster cards in your hand to take it back (unless you're running Miracle Rogue with Shadowstep, but then again you wouldn't necessarily want to waste it here)?  I don't have many decks running Youthful Brewmasterjust in case I am going to get silenced.  It also takes up more mana and an extra turn to take effect.  The best plan of attack is to bait the silence if you think the opponent has one.

Avoiding the Silence Counter

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The only way to avoid having one of your best minions from being silenced is to throw out another minion in hopes that THIS minion will get silenced instead.  Just like in fishing for sharks, the tastier the bait, the more likely the opponent will bite.

Example: You have a Sylvanas Windrunnerin your hand but you're afraid it's going to get silenced right away.  Thankfully you happen to have another likely candidate - something like Lightspawn.  What would make this bait even tastier is if you played Divine Spiriton it, raising it to a 10/10.

At some point you may have to stop and ask yourself "Is spending all these buffs to make a bait really worth it?" That's for you to decide, but sometimes it's better than having your trump card get silenced.

Countering Spell Cards: AOE and Transformations

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Next we have spell cards. These will include cards like AOE cards like Flamestrikeand Consecrationand transformation cards like Hexand Polymorph. Other than the obvious cards like Spellbenderor Counterspell, where it straight-up negates a spell and only mages seem to possess, the only real counter to these cards is (you guessed it) baiting the spell cards.  Once again, the tastier the bait, the more likely the opponent will bite.

Example

You're running a Zoolock deck against a Mage and you have 3 minions (say a Knife Juggler, Abusive Sergeantand a Dire Wolf Alpha) on the field already. It's your turn first with 6/6 mana crystals left and you have a bunch of 2 or 1 mana drops, including a Nerubian Eggand a Voidwalkerand maybe something else like Flame Imp. Should you throw all of them down?

If you're a really gutsy player and playing with option 1 (praying your opponent doesn't have a Flamestrikeor even a Arcane Explosionwith perhaps a +1 Spell Damage minion lying around), then sure, go ahead, more power to you. However the likelihood that at the next turn where the opponent will have 7/7 crystals and the chance of holding a Flamestrike, I would argue the Flame Impwould be your best bet; you are losing 2 life for this and that looks like a sweet deal for the opponent to drop their Flamestrike.

The taunt on the Voidwalkeris also pretty enticing, but I would rather keep that because the taunt could prove useful.  Dropping the Nerubian Egghere may seem like a lose situation to the opponent, as killing it will result in nakedly dealing with a 4/4 their next turn, so I would argue that be a very spoiled bait.

Of course it's also possible that having 3 minions out already is enticing enough for them to play the Flamestrike.  You can never be too sure, though; it just depends on how hungry the shark is that day.

Class Specific Cards To Watch Out For

Here we will discuss all the possible cards that could wreck your day.  Let's start with Neutral cards:

Neutral

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Ironbeak Owl

The cheap silence.  Hard to see coming, as it's 2 mana cost and can be dropped in at virtually any time.  May appear in Hunter decks, as they are a Beast type.

Doomsayer

A board wipe card for 2 cost!  There really isn't a "bait" for this, but I may as well mention it, as it could potentially ruin your day.  Obviously the thing to do here is remove him ASAP.  However I bring this card up because...well, this card is an EXCELLENT bait if the opponent can't get rid of him by their attacking minions themselves.

Spellbreaker

The moderately priced silence. Rarely see these, but they may pop up once in a while to remind you how your magic will not save you.

Mage

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Going up against a mage is the most stressful thing next to completing Heroic mode in Naxxramas.  Not only do they have your typical Polymorphto remove big threats and high damaging AOE cards, they also have cheap removal spells like Frostboltand Fireball.  Also, never forget the possibilities of a +1 Spell Damage card to boost damage output.

Frostbolt

Cheap 2 mana spell to remove a 3 health minion.  I always assume the mage I'm against has one of these in their hands, unless they've all been used already.

Arcane Explosion

2 mana spell card.  I don't see this enough, but it does 1 damage to all of your minions and wrecks the day of Zoolocks.

Fireball

The bigger brother of Frostbolt.  4 mana for 6 damage; an easy way to get rid of midsized legendaries.  Bait this by summoning something with maybe 5 or 6 life.

Polymorph

The bane of legendary cards like Cairne Bloodhoofor Ragnaros the Firelord. 4 cost transform to 1/1 makes grown men shed a tear.

Cone of Cold

Wouldn't be too worried about this one.  4 cost for 3 adjacent minions to get 1 damage and be frozen. I don't see this one enough in decks either, as it's pretty weak and a high cost.

Blizzard

Seeing this one makes me die inside when played on my Zoolock.  6 cost for 2 damage to all minions + freeze; usually all my minions are dead by then. Hard to see this one coming because it's fairly rare in my experience and always comes as a surprise.  What sucks is on turn 6 they play this, I play some minions to fill the board on turn 7, and then they play...*drumroll*

Flamestrike

The bread and butter of Mage mass removals; 7 cost for 4 damage to all minions. Steamrolls over Zoolock. Always assume they have one in their hand, especially in Arena.  I like to have 3 minions on the board for this; with only two minions, usually they might opt to throw out some cheaper spells like Frostboltinstead.

Hunter

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While it seems like Hunters don't have much AOE, they still have spells and secrets that can turn the tide if you're not careful, particularly Unleash the Hounds.

Hunter's Mark

Technically not a transformation but reducing your minion's health to 1 counts as something to fear in my book.  And it only costs 0! Try to bait with a cheap 4 or 5+ health minion.

Explosive Trap

One of Hunter's most formidable crowd control cards.  The way to bait this is to attack with a minion first before summoning a bunch.

Unleash the Hounds

At a deal of 3 mana, this is Hunter's bread-and-butter.  I think the best way to bait this is always have 3 or 4 minions on the field; any more than that and I think the Hunter is at the advantage.  Be careful as summoning a Timber Wolfwill make them 2/1's.

Multi-Shot

For a whopping 4 mana, a Hunter can deal 3 damage to 2 random minions.  The problem with trying to bait this one out is that having 1 minion will render this card useless, having 2 minions will guarantee those 2 minions get hit, and having 3+ minions will bait Unleash the Houndsinstead.  Because of this I just either don't bother baiting it and keep it in the back of my head, or I'll use Harvest Golemso at least I am left with a 2/1. The best option for this is always have 1 minion on the field.

Explosive Shot

I personally forget this card exists.  For 5 mana you get 5 damage to a card and 2 adjacent to it.  Forget baiting this card, just make sure your placement on the board doesn't land them the biggest bank for their buck.

Warlock

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Warlock removals seem to hinder themselves as well so you can follow one simple rule:  it's very hard to bait the use of their AOEs unless it favors them more than it favors you.  For example, if they have less minions than you, then Hellfireor Twisting Netherwould be an easy choice for them.

Soulfire

Can never discount this 0 cost card.  Bait with something that will eat this 4 damage spell card.

Corruption

I don't see this card a lot, but it's cheap (1 cost) and gets rid of a minion at the end of the turn, so bye-bye Ragnaros the Firelord.  Bait with another tasty minion.

Shadow Bolt

A 3 cost for 4 damage nuke.  Bait with a lower life minion.

Siphon Soul

Can never discount this card either.  Even though it's not as common in Warlock decks like Zoos, I've still seen this run in some other Warlock decks, as it is an instant removal at the cost of 6 mana.  Bait with a different buffed up minion.

Twisting Nether

Did somebody say BLACK HOLEEEE? 8 cost to wipe the board.  The best way to bait this is to have more minions than the opponent.

Priest

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Priests have a bunch of removal cards, as well as silence and AOE, which makes him pretty annoying.  Always have to watch out for Shadow Word: Deathwhen buffing your guys up.

Silence: a zero cost way of silencing a minion.  On paper it sounds like a great card, but I hardly see these in play because people would rather have another card in its place (maybe even a cheap Ironbeak Owl?)  In any case, bait by playing a juicy low-cost minion with a nice effect like

Harvest Golem.

Holy Smite

1 cost for 2 damage; at a cheap 1 cost, good luck baiting these out.  Priests seem to dish them out whenever they want depending on the alignment of the planets.

Shadow Word: Pain

2 cost to remove any < 3 (no that's not a heart) attack minion.  Best used on minions with high health and low attack like Gurubashi Berserkeror Mogu'shan Warden. Bait by using similar units, but lower use (like maybe Amani Berserker).

Shadow Word: Death

Similarly to Shadow Word: Pain, this 3 cost for removing any > 5 minion can be baited by playing high attack minions.

Mass Dispel

This card always throws me off my game because it silences e'erbody.  AND they get to draw a card, for 4 mana?  This card will be hard to bait because you will need not only multiple minions on the board, but they all must have some value in silencing. The best way to bait this is serve one or two deliciously talented minions.

Holy Nova

Like any AOE, try to bait this 5 cost 2 damage AOE by playing a good number of minions, say 3 or 4.

Holy Fire

5 damage for 6 mana, so try to bait this by playing a low health yet formidable card, or a high health minion.

Druid

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I might as well write a separate guide about how annoying Druids are because they have a plethora of high damaging spells and AOE spells, and to top it off, that spell can choose which one to do! Yes, we are talking about Starfall.

Naturalize

an excellent removal card for 1 cost.  Bait by playing a tasty minion.

Wrath

For 2 mana, it becomes either a 3 damage nuke or a 1 damage nuke with a card draw.  You can usually bait this out by playing a 1 health minion because more likely than not, a Druid will favor a card draw over damage.

Poison Seeds

4 mana to replace all minions with 2/2 treants.  Very difficult to see coming.  Like Hellfirethey must have a better incentive removing your minions than theirs.

Swipe

4 mana card that hits 4 damage to one target and 1 to the rest.  Usually easy to bait out if you have a lot of low-health minions on the board.

Keeper of the Grove

Almost forgot this guy! A 4 cost minion that can silence or do 2 damage.  Usually I try to bait this with a 2 health minion so they choose to kill it rather than to silence.

Starfall

I hate this card (mainly because I also don't have it).  5 cost for either 5 damage to a minion, or 2 damage to all your minions.  I'd say 99% of the time they will choose the latter, so a good way to bait this is playing some low health minions.  That way you can play your bigger minions later and not worry about this card. But...

Starfire

5 damage for 6 cost may hurt you.  To bait this sucker, play mid-life crisis minions and hope they take the bullet.

Paladin

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Paladins don't have that many removals.  However their ability to change a minion's health or attack is fairly cumbersome and should be watched out for.

Humility

Changes a minion's attack to 1 for 1 mana.  Can be baited with a mid-attack minion like maybe a 4 or even a 3 attack.

Equality

For 2 mana, this usually gets comboed with Wild Pyromanceror Consecrationafter.  Bait this by playing 3 or 4 minions.

Aldor Peacekeeper

Similar to Humility, bait this 3 cost with a mid-attack minion.

Consecration

4 mana for 2 damage AOE.  Bait with 3ish minions.

Shaman

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Shaman has a lot of potential spells in his repertoire.  Since he can summon the and have a +1 Spell Damage fairly cheaply, his low damaging spells may prove to become a bit more fatal.

Earth Shock

1 mana for 1 damage and silence.  A really good card to get rid of minions with 1 life and a deathrattle, like Loot Hoarder.

Forked Lightning

Too many Twos in this one: 1 mana to deal 2 damage to 2 random enemies and overload of 2!  Bait this with 2 midlife minions.

Lightning Bolt

3 damage for 1 mana and Overload 1.  Bait this with a midlife minion.

Hex

Aye, 3 mana to transform a unit to a 0/1 with taunt.  This is better than Polymorphbut you bait it the same way; find a tasty minion to summon.

Lava Burst

3 mana for 5 damage and Overload 2.  Bait this like Fireball; summon something with 4 or 5 life.

Lightning Storm

For a mere 3 mana, deal 2-3 damage to all enemy minions? (Overload 2 though, but whatever!) This card seems to wreck me all the time, particularly because I run a Zoolock, and it is really cheap.  Bait this with 3 low or mid-life minions. I usually get caught with this with a +1 Spell Damage so it turns out to be 3-4 damage, which is wrecking to a Zoolock.

Warrior

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Thankfully Warrior doesn't have many removal cards.  He does have some damaging spell cards, though:

Execute

1 mana to execute a damaged minion.  This is pretty cheap and hard to bait because you need to be damaged.  However it can always be comboed with something like Inner Rageso you can try baiting this with a mid-life hero.

Mortal Strike

4 mana to do either 4 or 6 damage depending on his remaining health.  Usually used to damage the hero directly, but in case you are trying to bait this out on your minion, try using something with 4~6 health.

Brawl

5 mana to eliminate all minions but one.  Kind of like Twisting Nether, the only way to really bait this is to have more minions than your opponent.

Conclusion

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Whew, we are done!  Remember that your opponent may or may not have any of these cards in their hands.  It is even possible they don't have it in their deck.  All this is about is anticipation of the card, and thinking ahead, and being cautious.  You as a player decide how risky you want to play your hand.  This guide was merely to let you know your options.  Let me know if this guide was helpful and if you would like to see more of these kinds of guides.  I had one heck of a time writing this and I hope you all got something out of it.

And with that, I'm going fishing.

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