In-Depth Turn Analysis #13: ‘Playing to Win’
Hi guys! Welcome to Episode 13 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: Oil Rogue
- This week’s contributors: Chandyland, Smashthings
Today we are going to talk about a really difficult position Chandyland found herself in with Oil Rogue.
As always guys, comments, likes, questions, etc are welcome.
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 this link to an article on Oil Rogue written by Stonekeep.
Okay, so let’s look at the position shall we? A shout-out goes to Dtwo for streaming the tournament in English.
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 MANA: 5 mana* (*You have 5 since Azure Drake has already been played this turn).
NUMBER OF CARDS IN HAND (OPPONENT): 1 (since this image is taken from a tournament Vod we know that the card is Blessing of Might. However, when analysing this position you should do your best to ignore this information since this was not known to Chandyland during the game.
ANY OTHER NOTES: Its Turn 10, Chandyland started the turn by playing Azure Drake (which drew Antique Healbot), therefore you have 5 mana left to finish the rest of the turn. The Paladin’s weapon is a 2/1 Coghammer. Life Totals are: Rogue 6, Paladin 19.
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.
A concept that I find many new players, and even seasoned players, have trouble with is the concept of playing to win versus playing to survive. Oftentimes the winning play is neither the safe play nor the value play. In many situations, playing safe requires sacrificing tempo, damage, or favorable board position, and choosing what seems to be a safe line of play can eventually cost you the game.
We’ve all had those tough losses after being just a few damage off lethal. How many times have you thought, “If I had only gone face with this one minion last turn, I would have won.” These are the kind of situations we should try to avoid. Maybe those last few points of damage were lost in a trade that was too good to pass up, or you spent them clearing a non-threatening minion like an Acolyte of Pain, just in case the opponent could get value out of it or maybe use it to come back from behind. It’s often a difficult call to make because as much as each game is about bringing our opponent’s life total to 0, it is also about staying alive long enough to do so. Therefore it’s key to maximize our chances of winning while also not playing overly safe or scared of losing.
Okay, so let’s study the position above: In this game I was playing Oil Rogue against Aggro Paladin. I stand at 6 health and the opponent at 19. At the start of the turn I am 3 damage off lethal, so I decide to play Azure Drake which draws into a much needed Healbot. The opponent Paladin has 2/1 Coghammer equipped, 1 card in hand, and has not yet played Arcane Golem‘s, Leeroy Jenkins, or Divine Favors while I have already used an Eviscerate as well as both Blade Flurries. Given this context, I considered several viable lines of play:
- Eviscerate the 5/5 Recruit, run the SI Agent into Ironbeak Owl, go face with the Shredder
- Play Healbot, trade both Shredder and SI Agent into the Recruit
- Play Healbot, run SI Agent into Ironbeak Owl, go face with Shredder
With Option 1 we clear the whole board, leaving the opponent with a 2/1 weapon. We push face for 4 damage, bringing the opponent to 15, setting up lethal for next turn. But with only 6 health remaining, this play leaves us dead to several cards remaining in the opponent’s deck, some of which there are likely 2 copies of – Arcane Golem, Leeroy, Blessing of Kings. So we almost certainly need to play Healbot this turn.
With Option 2 we leave the opponent with a 2/1 weapon and the 2/1 Ironbeak Owl. Option 2 is what most would consider the safe play – heal up and remove the large threat. But we can only do so at the cost of sacrificing both our Piloted Shredder and SI:7 Agent. We ensure that we live another turn but we push for 0 damage this turn and consequently we are no closer to lethal next turn. We force ourselves to rely on topdecking lethal when we know that only 3 immediate damage cards remain in our deck: 2 Tinker’s Oils and 1 SI Agent. With this play we heal to 14 and leave the opponent with 4 damage on board, and with only two cards it is very likely that the Paladin won’t find the required 10 damage to win the game. But here’s the problem; If we don’t topdeck lethal next turn, the opponent then has another turn to kill us – that’s two turns to find 10 damage, with the threat of multiple chargers and both copies of Divine Favor still available.
With Option 3 we heal to 14 and leave the opponent with a 2/1 weapon and 5/5 Recruit. While this might seem scary, we are able to push for 4 damage with the shredder and set up lethal for next turn. This play leaves our opponent with one turn and one draw to find 7 damage. No single card in Aggro Paladin can deal 7 damage, so we can only die to a combination of 2 or more cards – say Leeroy and a buff. I argue that finding 7 damage in one turn is more difficult than finding 10 damage over two turns. Given what we know remains in the opponent’s deck, we will likely be dead as soon as the opponent draws into Divine Favor, so we need to end the game before that happens.
During the game I decided that option 3 gave me the best chance to win. Yes, this line of play is risky but unlike the ‘safe plays’ we set up lethal which therefore denies the opponent another turn. All things considered, I think that this risk is one worth taking.
I thought I would end my analysis with a few more general points about ‘playing to win’:
Playing to Win
So imagine a position where you are dead on board if the opponent top-decks Fireball or Kill Command. How much will it cost you to play around it? Can you avoid this situation without sacrificing your own win condition? It’s easy if there’s an obvious solution that still leaves you in a good shape to win the game. But in those situations where we might have to sacrifice our whole board or crucial combo pieces to play around a possible lethal, sometimes we need to accept that we’ll lose to a certain card and just go for it. Players often start playing scared when they fall behind, or when their health falls into lethal range of burn from the hand. Playing scared is destroying your whole board to clear a big minion or running 5-drops into 1-drops to prevent a possible lethal from your opponent when you won’t get a chance to set up your own lethal. You might live another turn but you are no closer to winning the game than you were before.
My advice is to do your best to play around a likely lethal, but playing scared when you’re behind simply gives your opponent more chances to draw into lethal.
Play safe and play for value, but never put yourself in a worse position to win a game for the sake of it. The correct play is the play that will lead you to winning the game, so make the play that has highest chance of doing so. When it comes down to the final turns of a game, too many players are stuck in the mindset of “How do I stay alive this turn” when they should really be thinking of how best to set up lethal and end the game before the opponent has the chance. Don’t play simply to stay alive – play to win.
So this week I’m going to analyse the analysis, rather that offer my own thoughts on the position. So firstly I think it is cool that Chandyland used this position to illustrate the concepts of playing to win / playing to not lose. And indeed, I think this particular position is a good illustration of those concepts: Healbot + Face with Shredder is the play ‘to win’, meanwhile the ultra defensive Healbot + double trade into the 5/5 is the ‘let’s not lose’ play.
For those interested, check out my article on those concepts.
After reading Chandyland’s opinion I cannot find fault in her analysis; I agree that giving the opponent two turns to find lethal is significantly more dangerous then giving the opponent a single turn. And so therefore, of the 3 options Chandyland presents I do agree that the Healbot + Shredder into face is the best try to win the game.
There is a fourth option I considered briefly however:
- Option 4: Hero Power + Deadly Poison (go face) and Eviscerate 5/5. Will also kill the 2/1 with our Agent and Face with Shredder.
This drops the Paladin to 14 life and next turn we can win the game with Deadly Poison + minion attacks and/or top-decks.
Since this play sets up a possible lethal we can certainly consider this option a ‘to win’ play, I initially liked this line because it also had the advantage of giving the opponent one less card from Divine Favor. But after further thought I realised that this play is simply incorrect; at 6 life the Paladin only needs to find 4 damage from non-weapon sources (which should be easy) in order to win the game.
Meanwhile the Healbot play forces the opponent to find 7 damage from non-weapon sources AND ALSO sets up lethal. The final nail in the coffin is that if the Paladin draws into Divine Favor in this position I don’t think them having one less draw is likely to matter. Ergo, there is almost no advantage to using Deadly poison here, this play is worse than Healbot + Face shredder in almost every relevant way.
Long story short, leaving the 5/5 alive and kicking most certainly seems scary, but the Healbot + Shredder Face play strikes a good balance between offence and defence. In my opinion this risk is one worth taking.
…In the End…
In this section we show/tell you about what actually happened during the game. Click on the spoiler to find out!
Here is a Twitch Vod taken from DTwo’s stream. The game starts at 33:00 and the specific position we analysed today starts at 41:20
As you can see, Chandyland makes the ‘play to win’ play and on this occasion is successful.
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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