In-Depth Turn Analysis #17: 7 Isn’t Always the Lucky Number
Hi guys! Welcome to Episode 17 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: Dragon Freeze Mage
- This week’s contributors: Stonekeep, Smashthings
This week we’re gonna analyze an interesting match. Our deck is Dragon Freeze Priest and we’re playing a match against what’s probably a Midrange or Control Paladin. The difficulty of this turn comes mainly from the fact that we have quite a few options and we don’t how much heal we can expect from our opponent. What’s important to note is that Paladin has 7 minions on the board, so keep that in mind when you think about the play.
Also, if you want to submit your own position, you can read about it here in the “Reader Submissions” section.
Okay, Let’s begin!
About This Week’s Deck
The deck used in this episode is:
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.
YOUR MANA: 10
NUMBER OF CARDS IN HAND (OPPONENT): 4
YOUR HAND: 8
ANY OTHER NOTES: x
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.
Before Reading the Analysis, why not vote on what you think the best play is?
The voting is mostly for fun and you don’t need to take it seriously. It’s just to compare your line of thinking with the others and then with opinion of our team!
So, there are a lot of ways in which you can play out this turn, but I have five of them in my mind. Obviously some of them are weaker and some are stronger, but I’ve picked only those who make at least some sense. Let’s start going through our possibilities!
Option 1: Play Malygos.
It might seem like this option makes no sense, but sometimes you can do that. You generally want to play Malygos on the turn you also play some damage spells to get guaranteed Spell Damage value. +5 is a huge boost and you don’t want to risk getting it killed. But if enemy isn’t likely to kill it and you have lethal next turn thanks to that, it might work out just fine.
Enemy has 15 damage on the board (plus some random Boom Bot damage). You have two 6 health Taunts (Twilight Guardians), so with Malygos the total toughness of your board would be 24. Even with the Consecration or Quartermaster in his hand, enemy would need Boom Bot to hit perfectly in order to kill your Malygos.
You get down enemy to 18 health, and next turn you have 4 damage from Malygos + 8 from Frostbolt + 11 from Fireball + 1 from Hero Power, so even if you don’t draw any more damage, you can deal 24, easily threatening lethal.
The play, however, is pretty bad, because right now Malygos is your main win condition. You can play Malygos without getting value only if you need to take risk. Here, the risk is too high – Equality completely ruins your board and puts you into a pretty bad spot. Consecration + Truesilver Champion is much less likely, because enemy has used one of each already, but if he has both of them, once again, your board is ruined. Another thing that can work against you is Quartermaster + some more damage (Consecration or Truesilver). Enemy could run the Antique Healbot into one of your Drakes, use the Quartermaster and then easily clear your whole board in case he has just a little more damage.
So, overall the play is pretty bad – you don’t want to risk enemy killing your win condition if you don’t have to.
Oh, one of the strongest board clears in Mage. Enemy board is rather threatening and you’d really like to get rid of it. Frost Nova + Doomsayer seems like a pretty solid option. But is it really?
If the Doomsayer triggers (it’s not removed/Silenced), the obvious merit would be getting the initiative on the empty board. You could then play the Emperor Thaurissan on an empty board – that’s really strong. Paladin has really hard time dealing 5 damage with no board presence, so there is a chance it would give you two procs. Repopulating the board after that shouldn’t really be hard either.
Normally, Doomsayer is weak against Silence, but not in this case. Enemy has 7 minions on the board. It means that there is no room to play Silence – he is forced to have Equality + Consecration (or Avenging Wrath in case his build runs it) combo in order to kill the Doomsayer. Doomsayer is likely to go off in this scenario. But there are couple of problems with this play.
The first problem with this play is that you have the board yourself. So if it procs, you’re losing two rather strong 4-drops. The second problem is that you aren’t accomplishing much this turn. Yes, you clear enemy board, but it’s not as threatening as it looks in the first place. You’re at 29 health behind 12 health Taunts – you aren’t really scared that enemy is gonna kill you. And third – you’re taking a long game route. You don’t set up anything, you won’t have a way to kill enemy next turn no matter what you draw. And taking a long game against Paladin is not always a good thing to do. We are not sure whether we’re playing against the Midrange build or the slower, Control one. The cards he played can be used in both of those. We’re not sure how much healing he has – if we give him a time to draw into cards like Lay on Hands or Tuskarr Jouster, he can actually get out of burn range pretty quickly.
There is also a good way about taking a long route, to be fair. Since you play Rhonin in your deck, drawing into it can make a huge difference. Three copies of Arcane Missiles combined with Malygos can lead to a lot of damage. In case you hold the Emperor Thaurissan and hit all the Missiles with him, you can threaten 24 random damage thanks to the combo.
Additional thing that needs to be considered – do we play Azure Drake? On the one hand, there is no point in playing a minion when you Doomsayer. But on the other, Azure Drake cycles itself. You want to draw into your burn, so playing Azure Drake would be a solid choice. But remember that if you’re in a spot like that, play the draw mechanic first. Maybe the thing you draw would change your initial play and there would be a better thing to do than Frost Nova + Doomsayer? I think that I’d cycle the Azure if I made a play like that.
But the play isn’t really thrilling. It’s pretty slow and it backfires by killing your own guys. I can see some merit – playing Emperor Thaurissan on an empty board against Paladin feels pretty good. But I still wouldn’t go for it.
This play combines developing the board + removing the biggest threat enemy has. You reduce the total damage enemy has from 15 to 8 – a big difference. Without additional tools, Paladin couldn’t even get through your Taunts on the board.
It’s a pretty nice tempo play, you significantly shift the board’s strength in your favor. Enemy needs to find an answer or he’s in a pretty rough spot.
The good side of the play is that you’re in the lead on the board, meaning enemy has to start playing defensively. You threaten a lot of damage next turn so he might be forced to Heal instead of actually developing something strong.
The are again a few problems with this play, though. First and the most obvious one is that you don’t set up lethal. Even in the best case scenario, where enemy doesn’t have any removals etc. and he can just get rid of one of your Drakes, it’s not enough. Enemy Paladin is gonna be at 18 health. You’re gonna have 3 + 3 + 4 = 10 damage on the board, +4 from Frostbolt + 1 from Hero Power = 15. You’d be 3 damage off lethal. And that’s best case scenario.
Worst case scenario, enemy has Equality, which really wrecks you. Enemy clears your whole board and is at 18 health. He has 8 mana after Equality to develop the board further.
You also use your burn as a removal. Having a Fireball in your hand means that you can much easier threaten lethal – you can do 10 damage from your hand.
So I don’t like this play. When the play is only “fine” in the best case scenario and it can lose you the game in the worst case (which isn’t that unlikely, since Paladin hasn’t used Equality yet) I wouldn’t recommend it.
Two things make the play really appealing. The first thing is setting up easy lethal. In case your board stays that way and doesn’t get removed – you have 3 + 3 + 3 + 5 = 14 damage on the board. Thanks to the Thaurissan’s discount and Sorcerer’s Apprentice on the board, next turn you can also play Malygos (for 8) + Fireball (for 2) + Frostbolt (for 0) for additional 19 damage. That means you’re threatening a total of 33 damage. Even if Paladin somehow heals to full (like 2x Holy Light) he’s still dead.
The second thing is that Paladin has full, frozen board. He can’t play any more minions. He can’t heal up, he can’t Silence, he can’t combo Equality with Knife Juggler (in case he has no Consecration). He can play spells or pass.
So, the two most obvious things Paladin can do is either Lay on Hands or Equality + Consecration. In the first case, he loses the game. There is nothing he can draw to survive and healing to 26 makes no difference. The second case is his only option to survive. You force him to have the combo or to lose the game. Since Paladin is out of one Consecration already and his hand size isn’t huge, it’s quite likely that you just won the game.
But! What if he plays the combo and clears your board? You’re still in an okay spot. You don’t have the lethal on the next turn, but there are a few things going your way. First, you can ping the Dr. Boom to kill him. Second, you can start cycling with the Azure Drake – you still have a lot of options. Another Fireball and Frostbolt as a burn. Second Frost Nova (paired with Doomsayer) or Chillmaw to clear the board. And Paladin is left with only 3 cards in his hand, meaning that they have to be really good in order for him to contest the board lead. With Equality out of the way, if you manage to clear Paladin’s board, you should be able to just play Malygos. Paladin has no way of getting through 12 health minion without Equality or great board control, meaning it’s likely gonna survive, and you would be able to unleash the rest of your spells to kill him.
This is kinda a middle-ground play. First, you need to decide whether you want to play Emperor Thaurissan or Azure Drake. Both of them have merits, but what’s more important, both of them set up the lethal if enemy has no answer.
It’s similar to option 3, but this time you’re not clearing the Dr. Boom. You’re just freezing it and saving additional damage as the burn. With Azure Drake, you have 10 damage on the board + 7 from Fireball + 1 from Hero Power for an exact lethal if enemy has no way to heal or deal with your board. With Emperor Thaurissan, you have 11 damage on the board + Malygos with Frostbolt for additional 8 damage = 19 in total. Again, setting up lethal in case enemy has no answer.
But this time, Equality is not the only answer. You bank on enemy not having anything – if he does, you’re screwed. Dr. Boom is still alive, even though it’s at 3/4 health, it can trade into something later. So if you won’t win next turn, you put yourself in a pretty bad spot.
It’s a high risk play – it loses to a lot of things, Equality, Consecration, Truesilver Champion, Quartermaster, Loatheb (gives Paladin one more turn) Lay on Hands (or another ways to heal). It’s really unlikely that Paladin doesn’t have ANY of those.
So, this play is rather bad. I really dislike it. You’re risking too much when you could just set up lethal in another way.
There is no way to set-up guaranteed lethal, so we have to take some risks here no matter what.
Overall, I think the option 4 is definitely the best one. It loses only to Equality + Consecration combo which is quite unlikely. Every other option also loses to the same thing and most of them have much more flaws imo. It sets up lethal even if enemy heals to full and in case he clears your board, you aren’t in terrible shape and you can still come back.
The second best option is option 2 – even though you sacrifice your two minions (three if you cycle Azure Drake), the Doomsayer is really hard to counter and you gain the board initiative. In case enemy counters your Doomsayer with the Equality play, you still have a lot of options and you can set up the Emperor in another way. You bank on your advantage in the long game, which can not work against a slow Paladin deck. But in case he plays more Midrange version, your late game is superior to his.
Rest of the options I don’t really like. They’re all risky – either not setting up lethal, throwing away your win conditions or just losing hard against a lot of different cards. Options 4 and 2 only lose against Equality + Consecration, but the rest of them are waaaay too easy to counter.
What’s really interesting is that Paladin’s full board might actually be a handicap in this case, not an advantage. Less experienced players often don’t consider how important board slots are. Against slow Mage deck like Freeze Mage or Echo/Giants Mage, you often want to have free board slots in case you need to play Loatheb, Antique Healbot or Ironbeak Owl.
Okay, this position has a large number of possible moves, far too many infact to go through the list and analyse each play one-by-one.
In the past when I have analysed positions like this I usually try to reason about the position ‘strategically’. By understanding the strategical aims and desires of a deck/position you can sometimes dismiss a lot of the options.
For example in Episode #9 of the series (warning; spoilers incoming!) I reasoned that as a Grim Patron Warrior I couldn’t use Execute on that turn because Execute was a crucial card in getting past the big Taunts of Handlock.
In short, I’m not going to sit here and type out all the options, rather, I’m going to spend most of my time talking about the deck and the position in a more ‘general sense’.
Option #1 Malygos
This is probably one of the easiest plays to dismiss.
It is easy to dismiss Malygos here on strategical grounds: Malygos is the win condition, and using it right now does not win the game.
The usual plan with Malygos is that you reduce the cost of spells (via Emperor Thaurissan and/or Sorcerer’s Apprentice) and then burn their face for a metric shit-tonne of damage (e.g Malygos + Apprentice + Arcane Missiles x3 = 24 damage).
But in this particular position we don’t have the right spells to make Malygos a powerful play. In short, using Malygos here doesn’t help us win the game.
Option #2 Sorcerer's Apprentice + ??
Since the Apprentice is only two mana we could play so many cards alongside her.
- Thuarissan + Apprentice + Frostbolt
- Apprentice + Doomsayer + Frost Nova + Frostbolt + Hero Power
That’s just two possible options (out of several) and moreover the above two plays can be further dissected (e.g. “What do we Frostbolt?”, “What do we do with the Dragons on board?”).
Basically, there are numerous ways we could weave this card into the present turn, and that makes analysis time consuming and difficult.
But with that said, if we think about the deck/position strategically we can side-step most of this discussion. Soo….
“Why is Apprentice in the deck?”
I added Apprentice to the deck because of the synergy she has with some of other cards in the deck (most notably Thaurissan, Malygos, and the Arcane Missiles we get from Rhonin).
Rhonin is a turn 8 play which therefore means in the games where we play Thaurissan on curve we are unlikely to get the free Arcane Missiles to play with Malygos on Turns 9/10. And it is in these situations that Apprentice comes in handy, since if Malygos and/or Apprentice are in the hand when we play Thaurissan that means we have the ability to use Arcane Missiles for zero mana on Turn 10.
In short, the role this card fills in the deck is “combo-enabler”. Ideally we want to play Malygos + Apprentice on the same turn and smack the enemy with a flurry of cheap spells.
If however, we play Apprentice right now then we don’t get that ‘combo value’.
So now I think I can propose a really simply rule of thumb that makes analysis easy: Since this card is a combo enabler, we should save the card UNLESS we can find a very compelling reason to play her.
So sure, we can play her this turn and Frostbolt something for 1 mana, or whatever. But personally I don’t see a line of play where playing Apprentice is absolutely necessary.
In short; if we don’t need to play Apprentice we shouldn’t play Apprentice.
Option #3 Frostbolt something + ??
Again, with Apprentice, Malygos and Thuarissan in hand it is really tempting to try and not use this card since it could potentially be used as part of a game-winning combo.
Thus, much of what I said about Apprentice is applicable here too: we should be predisposed to saving the Frostbolt. Thus, if we are going to use this card we need to find a bloody good reason to do so.
In the Current position Dr. Boom is the only Frostbolt target that makes any sense.
“Should We Frostbolt Dr. Boom?”
Well, I think we do need to find a way to deal with Dr. Boom, but is Frostbolt the best way of achieving that aim? I’m not sure that it is. I’ll talk about dealing with Dr. Boom a bit later on.
Thaurissan looks like a strong play, we reduce the cost of a lot of cards and we also have enough mana to do other things this turn as well, such as:
With Thuarissan + Frost Nova we prevent the Paladin from using his board, and by hiding Thaurissan behind two taunts the Paladin would need Equality + Consecration (and remember one copy of the latter card has already been used this game) in order to prevent us from getting multiple Thuarissan procs.
So this sounds like a good deal, really good in fact. However, I feel that there are two basic drawbacks:
- The cheaper cards do not give us lethal (yet)
- If we Freeze the board this turn then (unless we top-deck something) we don’t have board clear combos for next turn.
Let’s look at point (1) quickly. Sure Thuarissan enables us to play Malygos + Frostbolt next turn but this is nowhere enough damage to win the game. And since we cannot deal lethal damage we will be forced to fight for the board next turn.
In short, using Frost Nova as a ‘tempo-play’ is fine in situations where you can use that tempo to quickly win the game, but now is not the time for such shenanigans.
If we had two copies of Frost Nova in hand then Thaurissan + Frost Nova is a play I would consider seriously. But as it is I am not convinced that this is a good time for Thuarissan, it is probably better to wait and see if we can lower the cost of more relevant cards.
We could also play Thuarissan + Fireball (on Dr. Boom). I will talk about this play when I talk about the role of Fireball.
Option #5: Draw with Azure Drake + ??
Drawing cards is reasonable, and with 5 mana remaining we have some flexibility for the rest of the turn. We could, for example, use the remaining mana to Fireball Dr. Boom (more on this later)
We could also draw into a card that might make us change the plan over the next few turns (e.g. Alexstrasza, Rhonin) or maybe we could draw into something immediately useful, such as the 2nd copy of Frost Nova.
All things considered, Drake is a decent play but is only “worth it” in a few situations:
- If we draw something good.
- If we use the rest of our mana to good effect.
In short, Azure Drake is a play we make when we are confident we know what we are doing with the rest of the turn/mana. At the moment though, we haven’t figured out exactly what we want to do this turn. So this play goes on the back burner, for now at least.
On the face of it, this play looks rather reasonable; after killing Dr. Boom we can also use our 2x 3/6 Dragons to trade into the rest of the board, giving us good board control.
The problem with this play is more a question:
“Is this the best way to kill Dr. Boom?”
With Malygos, Apprentice and Thurassian in hand that Fireball could be potentially used to win the game (e.g imagine If we play Malygos and it survives a turn). If we fireball Dr. Boom instead we rule out that burst finish option.
So, if our goal is to Kill Dr. Boom is Fireball truly the best way? We could use our minions + Hero Power or we could also try Frostnova alongside Doomsayer. Speaking of which…
As I have already alluded to Dr. Boom is a threat but it is not clear that we would want to deal with this minion by using burn spells (since burn spells = potential win condition). The Doomsayer combo meanwhile deals with the threat whilst also keeping our burn in the hand.
Okay enough chatter, let’s look at the line of play I actually took:
My Actual chosen play:
Now, I’m sure plenty of you are wondering why I played the Azure Drake when I knew I wanted to play Doomsayer. Doesn’t this play just waste a card? The short answer is yes, it does waste a card.
But… I think there are in fact a few good reasons to play Azure Drake here:
- If they kill Doomsayer, we have an extra minion on the board.
- Look at our hand; this game is probably going to finish quickly. Ergo losing the Drake isn’t really a problem since if we don’t play it now we are probably never playing the card this game.
- Game Psychology: By putting lots of minions on the board, our opponent is less likely to try and counter Doomsayer.
At first glance it might appear that we get completely wrecked by Equality + Consecration, but even in this case (which is the worst case) next turn we could Hero Power Dr. Boom and maybe Frostbolt something else. So basically the worst case scenario is not even that terrible for us.
The real power of this play is only realised when you think about the likely response from the Paladin (which is probably just Equip Weapon and Pass), he basically does almost nothing for a turn and we get to play Thaurissan on an empty board. And as I’m sure plenty of you are aware Paladin struggles to deal with 5/5 minions without minions on board. Thus, there is a decent chance that we get two (or more) Thaurissan procs. And that puts us in a very good position to win the game.
Basically, my proposed play is about sacrificing all our minions for a chance at seizing the initiative. Initiative + burn-combos in hand leaves the Paladin almost defenceless.
…In the End…
In this section we show/tell you about what actually happened during the game. Click on the spoiler to find out!
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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