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February 2, 2017

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In-Depth Turn Analysis #3: Firebat Did What?


Hi guys! So in the In-depth Turn Analysis series we usually take a screenshot of a complex position then get several HSP writers discuss possible plays. Well, today we are going to do something a little bit different: It’s just going to me discussing a play made by the reigning World Champion Firebat in the Kinguin Pro League. But don’t worry guys, on Saturday (25th April) we should be releasing the 4th instalment of the Series, which will be in the usual format.

Okay, Let’s begin!

About This Week’s Deck(s)

So our position is taken from a Best of 5 Match, conquest format. Kibler has lost 2 games with his Druid Deck and has decided to go with the deck for a third time. Firebat meanwhile is on his last deck which appears to be a Control Warrior deck with a few ‘tech cards’ (e.g. Doomsayer).

Since Firebat has already played 2 games against the deck he has a good idea what to expect from Kiblers Druid; it’s a Ramp deck that is running a number of ‘tech cards’ (e.g. 2x Kezan Mystic, Mind Control Tech) and a copy of “the combo” (i.e. Force of Nature, Savage Roar).

As I type this sentence the game I wish to talk about finished only about 10 minutes ago, and so I don’t have the exact deck-lists each player was running. Most tournaments release deck-lists after the event. So if you check back in a few days this short paragraph will have probably disappeared with Deck lists its place. SPOOKY!

The Situation

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.




KEY CARDS USED (OPPONENT): Wild Growth (on turn 2)


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!

Smashthings’ Analysis

Those of you familiar with this series will know that I usually stress that our opinions are written independently from one another,  and the reason we do that is because it keeps the series a bit more ‘honest’ and it avoids ‘group think’.

In the spirit of ‘honesty’ I want to start by saying that I have watched the game already and the very reason I’m studying this position is because Firebat came up with a move I never would have considered. But after some analysis (see below), I actually think the move is pretty decent and it may in fact be the best play.

If someone gives you a math problem it maybe the case that it is difficult to solve but usually if someone hands you the solution it is pretty easy (and quick) to check for its correctness. Well this series is a bit like the math problem: If someone shows you the right move it is often very easy ‘to see’ it’s the right move. This, I feel, is a very important lesson in Hearthstone Psychology: Just because you see a pro-player make a move that you believe to be strong, do not immediately assume that just because you recognize the moves power that you yourself would have played it.

Well anyway, let’s get straight to business. Normally my answers in this series are divided into two parts: the ‘strategical aims’ and then a discussion of the actual plays. Well, since it is only turn 2 there is not too much to say about the ‘Strategical aims’. Off the top of my head I can only think of two things worth mentioning:

  1. That in this match-up the Druid is favoured. Usually a good rule of thumb to follow is that when you are playing an unfavoured match-up you need to mix-it-up: you should play wild & loose with your cards (e.g. take crazy risks and so on). Why? Well, that is a rather simple question to answer: in unfavoured match-ups the conservative and safe plays you would normally make are basically countered by the opponents deck (which is why it’s a bad match-up in the first place!).
  2. The Druid has got a good start (turn 2 Wild Growth), thus we probably need to play even more wild than we normally would in this match-up.

Okay, that’s enough about the strategy, let’s look at a few plays:

  1. Hero Power
  2. Equip Fiery War Axe
  3. Play Cruel Taskmaster
  4. Garbage plays (e.g. Play Whirlwind). Since they are clearly terrible, I won’t waste time talking about them. :)

Okay, let’s study the options.

Play #1 Hero Power

In many match-ups, even when there is the option to play cards Control Warrior typically uses Hero Power anyway. This is because a key strategy of the deck is to amass lot’s of amour and then unleash a huge Shield Slam for a huge tempo-swing. This is the conservative and safe play. Indeed, had I of not been aware of Firebat’s choice then this is probably the move I would advocate as being best: it is non-committal, it follows the warrior game plan, and it uses all your mana. What’s not to like?

Play #2 Equip the Axe

This is another reasonable looking play. And many a beginner would probably prefer this option over Hero Power. Personally though, when there is a choice I usually like to hold back on weapons. The reason being is that if you develop a weapon (without gaining immediate value) then your opponent will typically make a play that in some way counters your weapon: For example, upon seeing a War Axe equipped a Mech Mage wouldn’t cast Mechwarper but would play an Annoy-o-Tron instead (should they have that choice). Likewise, a Paladin would prefer to cast Truesilver Champion instead of Piloted Shredder.

A secound consideration should be that equipping a weapon without using a charge makes you vulnerable to weapon removal. Should you equip the axe and not swing with it then it is conceivable that the Druid would innervate out Harrison Jones. In which case, the Warrior ends up significantly behind on cards.

And finally, a third consideration should be that you have Death’s Bite in hand in this particular situation, So it’s not even clear the War Axe is the right weapon to equip.

In short: the only benefit to playing this card now is that you won’t have to spend the mana to cast it later. ‘The cost’ incurred by this play is to risk weapon removal and/or the opponent playing around your weapon (via minion choice, etc), a less powerful shield slam (should you draw into that card) when compared to with Play #1 above, and lastly, you make Coin + Death’s Bite rather awkward.

Play #3 Play the Taskmaster

On the face of it, this play looks like it sucks. And yet, Firebat played it almost instantly, which suggests that this play is somewhat ‘obvious‘ to him (both Dog and Savjz — the match commentators– were also surprised by this play). Overall, I think that this is the sort of play you make when you know a match-up inside out.

Okay, so what’s the logic behind the play?

Well, I think there are few things going on here. Firstly notice that Firebat has held the weapon back. Now, in my Turn Two Arena Guide I tried to develop a concept of ‘countering the counter’ (see here). Basically the idea is that playing a 2/2 only suggests to the opponent that they should play something that can ‘eat’ a 2/2 (e.g. a 3/3). But that’s where the War Axe steps in! it counters the counter, so to speak.

Player X plays a 2/2 —> Player Y counters the 2/2 by playing a 3/3 —> Player X counters the 3/3 by playing the Axe.

That’s the general theory anyway. In the actual game Firebat is expecting something like a Piloted Shredder or a Kezan Mystic on turn 3 (remember Wild Growth has been played!). Both of these minions are countered by the War Axe but — rather more importantly — playing either of those minions ‘makes sense’ from the Druid’s perspective.

In the case of Piloted Shredder, the 2/2 Taskmaster is likely to be able to trade with whatever is left over from the deathrattle. In which case, a 2-drop trades for a 2-drop. However if the 2/2 survives (which may happen if the Druid plays Mind Control Tech, Kezan Mystic or if the Druid get’s unlucky with Shredders deathrattle), then the Druid may even struggle to put a five-drop on the board (such a Loatheb or Sludge Belcher) since the 2/2 and a weapon hit can trade. In such a scenario Kibler probably wouldn’t just drop a Sludge Belcher only to watch it die, but the problem he would face is that removing the 2/2 to make it safe for the 5-drops may result in an awkward turn (such as Wrath + Hero Power on Turn 5). In short, the little 2/2, when backed up by the War Axe. is capable of causing significant disruption in the Druid camp.

Moreover, another possibility is that the Druid Innervate‘s out a five health minion (such as Emperor Thaurissan), which again, is easily countered by the follow-up War Axe. What about Innervating out a Druid of the Claw in taunt mode? Well, The Coin + Death's Bite plus the 2/2 is 6 damage.

All things considered then, the 2/2 with the Weapon back up (be it War Axe or the D. Bite) is capable of countering a wide variety of ‘decent looking’ (from the Druid’s perspective) plays.


As I freely and frankly admit, I did not see Firebat’s Taskmaster play when my eyes first glanced upon the position. But, after analysis it seems as if the move makes the next two turns or so really awkward for the Druid. Once analysed, the strength of the move is, I feel, undeniable. 

…In the End…

In this section we show/tell you about what actually happened during the game. Click on the spoiler to find out!

Twitch Vod

p.s. I hate linking to Twitch Vod’s since they get deleted after a while. If someone finds a permanent link (e.g. Youtube) please let me know in the comments!


Feel free to leave a comment letting us know what you think about the position, the series, our opinions, etc.

And if you like it, don’t forget to leave a thumbs up!

The last thing I will say is that Kibler has written about the match on his website  You can read the article here.

Reader Submissions

If you have a position you would like us to look at please do post a link to it in the comments below.  If you would like to submit a position we would ask however that you follow a few basic rules:

  1. Submit an interesting position (can be Arena, but with that said the focus of this series shall be on constructed)
  2. Submit a high quality image in a format we can use (Imgur links are fine).
  3. Don’t constantly repost the same position.
  4. Supply all the ‘extra data’ we need. Deck Lists (Imgur link is fine), cards played, etc.
  5. If you have a Youtube video or a permanent twitch VOD with how the game ended that’s a bonus but not necessary.

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Leave a Reply

  1. Camzeee says:

    It looks smart, but if Kibler had a Keeper of the Grove, he loses all momentum and has no follow-up. I remember this play. I’m surprised that you didn’t comment on that. All that said, without Keeper this is definitely the correct play but I guess he was weighing the odds of Kibler having the Keeper vs not and any potential follow-ups he has.

    • Camzeee says:

      I guess actually he has both weapons so he could coin out Death’s Bite as an answer. I guess Firebat just had a perfect hand really.

      • Smashthings says:

        Okay sure, keeper is not something I considered in the original analysis…

        I would say that the risk of the taskmaster play backfiring is low. Moreover, the payoff (if it works) is decent so I consider the gamble worthwhile (given the unfavorable nature of the match-up, any gamble is probably worth taking!).

      • Onenutmcgee says:

        I don’t think it’s so much that he had a perfect hand or not, I think it’s more that the fact that his hand was perfect was obscured. Looking at the situation at hand, I almost immediately discarded the idea of playing taskmaster. I think it’s probably because I sometimes get hung up on getting max value out of a card. Since I couldn’t use his BC for value, I would have never seen it and thus this very strong open for him (at worst, he trades even and has a weapon charge up) would have been much weaker for myself.

        It’s a good lesson. Look beyond immediate value.

  2. zy69yz says:

    They both clearly don’t want to win because they aren’t roping every turn Kappa

    I like the strategic content more than I do the “other stuff”, good article man.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Would the play have still been at-all viable if Firebat didn’t have the Fiery War-Axe in hand? Obviously it wouldn’t be as good, and there’d be the possibility of drawing into the axe anyways, but more what I’m getting at is what I’ve heard over and over for the warrior side in this matchup is ‘get things on the board asap’, or would there be no merit to picking Taskmaster over Armour Up then?

    • Smashthings says:

      Well firstly everything you can do with war axe can be done with coin + Death’s bite. So to awnser your question litterally: yes, taskmaster is fine.

      However, the more interesting question (and the question you probably meant to ask :) ) is whether you would want to play taskmaster if you didn’t have **any** weapons in hand. And in this case, I think I would be inclined to cast Hero Power rather than dropping the 2/2. The reason being that a 2/2 cannot (by itself) trade with any minion the Druid has.