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May 25, 2017

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In-Depth Turn Analysis: What to do, what to do…


In-Depth Turn Analysis is as series started by Smashthings back in 2014. Since he quit Hearthstone, it was discontinued and forgotten. I’ve decided to pick it up, because it’s really interesting and fills a niche between articles for beginners and more competitive ones.

If you aren’t familiar with the series, don’t worry – it’s quite easy. Just imagine you’re in an interesting or difficult spot in one of your matches. What if, instead of having 75 seconds to analyze everything, your time would be unlimited? Decisions in Hearthstone are often very chaotic. You might be driven by intuition (which isn’t always right), you might miss something, you might make a big misplay, because you didn’t have time to think about every possible outcome.

In order to take most from the series, before checking out my analysis, you should think about the scenario yourself. What do you think is the best play? Comparing your answers to my analysis can then teach you something or even spark a discussion if you disagree with my points. Feel free to comment if you do!

So before I start, I have one request for you guys. If you stumble upon such a scenario during one of your games, please make a screenshot and send it to me ( and it get featured in next episode of the series!

Secret Mage vs Midrange Hunter

Screenshot was posted by /u/c_lombardo on the /r/CompetitiveHS’ “What’s the play weekly” thread. Here’s the link to the comment.

First of all, we don’t know what deck does the opponent play exactly. It’s not a cookie-cutter Midrange Hunter build, it has more of a “beast flood” play style with Timber Wolf, Runt, Hyena and possibly more similar minions. From this information, we can assume that they don’t run heavy late game, but a) they will very likely have a way to reflood the board and b) they definitely play Unleash the Hounds. The Ravasaur Runt is adapted to spawn 2x 1/1 on Deathrattle (if you aren’t familiar with all the Adapts).

In this scenario, we play Secret Mage. Since no additional info was given, we assume a pretty Standard build, maybe with a few tech choices that shouldn’t change the plan too much. Here’s the most common Secret Mage build on the ladder right now. There is no Secret in play right now, so Medivh’s Valet is not yet active.

In this scenario, we have few viable options. We need to consider few things. First of all – which spells will be more useful in the future and you don’t want to play them now? Maybe one of those choices will be okay this turn, but it’s better to wait with it until later in the game? Also, we need to consider how much board tempo we need to have on the board for the next turn. Not to mention that it would be nice to consider what we’re going to do next turn too.

I think that there are up to 4 plays that might be considered. I’ll try to go through each one of them and pick the line that should give Mage the highest chance to win in this scenario.

Play #1

Mana Wyrm + Medivh’s Valet + Ping

We run 2/2 and 1/1 into Hyena, pop the 2/2 with Arcanologist. Play Mana Wyrm, Medivh's Valet and ping the 1/1. We have Mana Wyrm + 2/3 + 2/1 on the board, while Hunter has 1/1.


  • You have a good board advantage. Even if the 1/1 trades into 2/1, you still have Mana Wyrm + 2/3 on the board.
  • You don’t leave any Beasts on the board, so the Hunter can’t buff anything with Houndmaster.
  • You save both Mirror Entity and Blizzard for a better opportunity.


  • You don’t get the Medivh’s Valet Battlecry value.
  • You don’t clear the whole board.

Play #2

Mana Wyrm + Blizzard

You run 1/1 into Hyena, play Mana Wyrm, Blizzard and then clear the other two 1/1’s with 2/2 and 2/3, but at the cost of precious AoE removal.


  • You end up with 2/3 Mana Wyrm, 2/2 and 2/1 against no board from Hunter.
  • It’s a high tempo play, which is exactly what you want with this deck.
  • You still save Mirror Entity for a better turn.


  • AoE clears are incredibly valuable in this deck, because random effects are the only way to get them.
  • There is a high chance that the Blizzard might be more useful later down the road – e.g. in this case you don’t utilize the Freeze effect at all.

Play #3

Mirror Entity + Medivh’s Valet

You play Mirror Entity, clear the Hyena with Medivh’s Valet, run 2/3 into 2/2 and clear the 1/1’s with 2/2 and 1/1.


  • You clear the whole board, leaving Hunter with no minions to trade with.
  • You end up with a quite strong board yourself – 2/3, 2/1 and 2/1.
  • You utilize the Medivh’s Valet Battlecry.
  • You still save Blizzard for a better situation.


  • With two 2/1 minions, your board is quite weak against Unleash the Hounds.
  • Mirror Entity isn’t too strong into the Hunter’s turn 5, it’s generally better to set it up before turn 6.

Play #4

Cabalist’s Tome

You trade 1/1 and 2/2 into Hyena, clear 2/2 with 2/3 and play Cabalist’s Tome.


  • You save both Blizzard and Mirror Entity + Medivh’s Valet combos.
  • You get more options for the next turn.


  • It’s the only play where you actually start losing on the board. You end up with a 2/1 against 2x 1/1, meaning that once Hunter trades, you will have no board or no Secret set-up.
  • Very low tempo, not what you want to accomplish with this deck.


Like always, I’ll start the analysis by ruling out the plays I like least. In this case, those are Play #1 (Mana Wyrm + Medivh’s Valet + Ping) and especially Play #4 (Cabalist’s Tome). I’ve actually put the Play #4 here only because someone suggested it in the reddit thread and it was even the most upvoted answer – I can’t get my head around it!

Play #1 is not as bad as it seems, actually, but it’s still worse than the two in the middle. I think that it showcases an important thing – you don’t always need to get the Battlecry from the Medivh’s Valet to play it. That’s right, if you play for the tempo and you don’t have a Secret up, that 2/3 on the board is often better than nothing. And without Mirror Entity in the hand, I’d seriously consider going for that move. What I like about it is that it doesn’t commit into Mirror Entity or Blizzard. Both of the cards can get more useful later, especially the Blizzard, which can get insane value against deck like that (because we assume that the Hunter should have a way to refill). I also like setting up the Mana Wyrm – this hand is quite spell heavy and Mana Wyrm can snowball quite easily.

Play #4, however, is absolutely horrible. The only explanation for it is a rather mediocre hand, with nothing really strong to do next turn. But that’s not enough to justify completely dropping the tempo. Secret Mage is a tempo deck and same goes for the Hunter. When two tempo decks, especially the ones with limited comeback potential, face against each other, usually the deck who gets the board advantage and keeps it wins the game. Playing Cabalist’s Tome here is a 100% value play and it gives you no tempo at all. You actually start losing on the board – Hunter ends up with a 1/1 AND a full turn of development. One can argue that you have a Blizzard or Mediv’s Valet to counter whatever he plays, but it’s not that easy. Blizzard still costs 4 mana, not to mention that it deals only 2 damage, so it might not clear some minions. Same goes for Medivh’s Valet – you need to spend 5 mana for Entity + Valet and it deals 3 damage. E.g. if Hunter goes for the Tundra Rhino, now you have no way to clear it unless you’ve got something from the Tome. And even if you did get a Fireball or Polymorph, you still have to spend whole turn removing it. That’s the thing – if you’re forced into the reactive game for even a single turn, you might get forced into it every turn after.

Now onto the plays I actually like. Play #2 or Play #3 are two strongest here in my opinion. I really like that both of them are high tempo moves – they set up a powerful board and while yes, you might not have a great play for the next turn, you can still topdeck something or simply play Cabalist’s Tome AFTER you stabilize the board.

Play #2 is good, because you end up with a quite nice board advantage and your next turn doesn’t look bad at all. You easily clear the whole board and you still have 2/3 Mana Wyrm (that grows), 2/2 and 2/1 on the board. If Hunter wants to clear this board, he needs to spend the whole turn doing that, which isn’t that bad. The only thing I hate about this play is using Blizzard. Hunter seems to be playing some kind of board flood deck with a lot of tokens and ways to buff them. I know from experience that such decks can really snowball the game if their board isn’t answered. Right now you have no more AoE and you might not get another until the end of the game. However, you need to remember one thing – AoEs are much less necessary if you’re actually ahead on the board. If you have minions, which you have in this case, you simply won’t let Hunter snowball. When it comes to your next turn, you can still set up the Mirror Entity + play Medivh’s Valet. Mirror Entity is best before Hunter’s turn 6 if he runs Savannah Highmane. He has two choices – either to play Highmane into Entity, which is absolutely amazing for you, or play something small and wait with Highmane, which is also fine – you still get something and you’ve messed up his turn. Saving Secret is also good in case you topdeck a Kirin Tor Mage or Kabal Lackey, but one Lackey was surely played already, so it’s not a very high chance.

However, Play #3 is the one I like most here. It’s the highest tempo play of them all and that’s exactly what you want. While your board is a bit weaker than in case of Play #2 (you get a regular 2/3 instead of a 2/3 Mana Wyrm + your 2/2 is 2/1 instead), your tempo is actually higher, because you also have a Secret up. Now, the thing is, Hunter doesn’t even know it’s the Mirror Entity. One Mirror Entity was already played (it copied Hyena), so Hunter might assume that it’s a Counterspell too. You might screw his turn a bit. Maybe he wanted to play Unleash the Hounds or Animal Companion, but he won’t do that, because he thinks it’s Counterspell. At the same time, he might not have a small minion to proc Mirror Entity with. The best case scenario is him playing some 3-5 mana minion. In that case, you gain some serious tempo. But even if he plays something small, you’re still ahead on the board. Plus if you copy a Beast, you might be able to buff your own Hyena! You’re saving Blizzard for a better opportunity. Yes, you use Mirror Entity, but that’s bad only when assuming that Hunter runs Savannah Highmane in the list, which might not even be the case – more flood-oriented decks might drop it. The only thing I really dislike about this play is no guaranteed good play for the next turn. You might topdeck one, but it’s not guaranteed. With the current hand, you would probably go for the Mana Wyrm + either Blizzard if Hunter floods or Cabalist’s Tome if he plays a single minion. Either way, there is almost no way that you would start losing on the board – even if you copy a small minion with Mirror Entity, you have enough board presence to clear whatever he plays and then you play Firelands Portal on turn 7.

In the end, I think that Play #4  is the worst one, because it’s way too slow and that’s not how you want to play in this matchup. Play #1 isn’t really bad, but you don’t get A LOT of board presence, you don’t set up any Secrets, you don’t clear the whole board… it’s just an okay play, but not too strong. I think that both Play #3 and Play #4 are best in that case, because they accomplish exactly what you want in this matchup (or well, with this deck in general) – you outtempo your opponent. With a nice board lead, no matter what Hunter does, you should have an easier time countering it. There’s almost no way that you will fall behind on turn 6 and then you can swing it back on turn 7 with Firelands Portal. So I wouldn’t mind seeing either of those two moves.


That’s all folks. I hope you’ve enjoyed another episode of In-Depth Turn Analysis. If you disagree with any of my analysis, feel free to leave a comment in the section below. Once I have some free time, I’d be glad to discuss everything with you! And if you want to be up to date with my articles, you can follow me on Twitter.

Good luck on the ladder and until next time!

Previous Episodes

If you enjoy the series, you might want to check out the previous installments:

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Playing Hearthstone since September 2013. Infinite Arena player. Hitting Legend rank on EU each season, with multiple high Legend climbs during the season and top 200-300 finishes.

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Leave a Reply

  1. Roberto says:

    I would have gone for Mana Wyrm + blizzard.
    U get less punished by unleash the hounds since u dont leave many 1HP minions on the board.

    I really like this articles and I was a bit disappointed when I read it was just 1 turn analysis in this one.

    I would really like to read more of these articles!

  2. Bozonik says:

    It’s not impossible Runt has been adapted twice (e.g. Alleycat, coin runt, crackling razormaw+Timberwolf, Hyena+hero power), so maybe you don’t need the disclaimer 😉

    My instinct was #2 over #3 as it keeps more bodies intact (your bodies are in limited supply too) and sets up a strong play prior to his Turn 6. With portal in hand for Turn 7 too seems likely we still have the board on Turn 8 after which we can generate more removal with the tome at some point.

    But I like the idea that playing the secret maybe frightens him out if playing animal companion or unleash. Maybe depends how high ranked the game is. At low ranks that’s probably less likely to work than at Legend-5.