Planning to Win
Playing Grim Patron here gained Reynad 22 armor before his next turn and cost him the match. It also cost him the chance to play in regionals.
Why? Reynad misunderstood how his deck wins.
Planning to Win
But before we get into that let’s give some context.
On turn 6 Bloodyface played a Shade of Naxxramas (pictured above) and sent a full Force of Nature to Reynads face putting him at 12. Previously in this game Reynad had played a Frothing Berserker, for tempo, meaning he has 1 still left in his deck. The Grim Patron already on the board has been there for a few turns.
Alright, now we can talk about how playing that Grim Patron leads to this:
The Patron Warrior deck has 2 win conditions: Frothing Berserker and Grim Patrons. Part of piloting the deck well is knowing which win condition you are going to be using with that game. Against Druids it’s often Grim Patron since once you make 4+ Grim Patrons the Druid needs to have a hand like Wrath + Wrath + Swipe or lose.
In the situation above it’s clear Reynad knows this: he is trying to make a ton of Grim Patrons to keel Bloodyface over. However, Bloodyface has telegraphed a few turns earlier that he has Force of Nature + Savage Roar. The combo will clear the Grim Patrons but give Reynad a ton of armor. It also leaves Reynad with his solitary Frothing Berserker + Warsong Commander to win.
As it turns out Reynad dies while waiting for a good chance to kill with the Frothing Berserker. Bloodyface knows Reynad has literally one shot at winning so he can play it safe by limiting the number of minions he plays, prioritizing taunts and even using Ancient of Lore to heal if need be. Had Reynad kept that Grim Patron he would still have the option to use his Inner Rages and Whirlwind effects later in the game to flood the board.
Plans in Non-Combo Decks
Alright, it’s obvious that when you are playing a combo deck you need to be mindful of what your combos are. Is that all this article is about?
The advice here is: Making a game plan is crucial to winning
This applies to non-combo decks as well. Let’s look at this game between Phonetap and Muzzy in the World Championship Qualifier.
Muzzy is right to be holding his head in his hands, the situation is pretty rough for him. Phonetap has 2 secrets up which Muzzy knows to be an Avenge and a Redemption. If Phonetap has 5 damage from his hand the current board is lethal. Muzzy has only used 2 taunt givers in this game, meaning he has 2 left in the deck.
What is the game plan that is most likely to win Muzzy the game?
The good Doctor?! Doesn’t that leave Muzzy dead to several combinations of cards? Muzzy could have ensured he lived one more turn if he played either Antique Healbot or Shadowflame! Yes, but both of those plays make ever clearing the board almost impossible. Playing Dr. Boom here means it will probably survive until next turn which lets Muzzy clear with Shadowflame. From there Muzzy just needs to draw a taunt giver and he can stabilize. For the record, Muzzy does clear the board in the following turn but then dies to due to a lack of taunts.
Is the correct play seriously ‘Hope he doesn’t have lethal and you draw the card you need’? Anyone can give that advice. Why is this an article?
Well it’s not that simple. It’s more like: “I need to clear the board or I have 0% chance of winning this game, hence I’m going for the line of plays that is most likely to clear”. It’s unfortunate for Muzzy that clearing the board involves hoping Phonetap doesn’t have 5 damage from his hand in a deck that runs many weapons and possibly a few Blessing of Kings. If Muzzy was not this far behind in the game his plan could involve something more sensible like “keep the board under control until I can out-muscle him with giants.”
Here is another situation from the world championship, featuring Ostkaka and Kolento:
Lets try something different this time: a video
Your Opponent Has Plans Too
When you are in the lead your plan is unlikely to change as the game develops. You built your deck to do a specific thing, then it does it.
Win board control with my expensive minions then combo kill on turn 9 to 11. – Druid
Play powerful sticky minions until turn 6 to 8 then burn the opponent out – Hunter
Tap tap tap into absurdly powerful minions turn 4 then follow up with undercosted giants and strong board clear – Handlock
Drag the game on until turn 25 then win with some legendary or another – Control Warrior
As things get worse it’s perfectly fine to have your plans devolve into “Go face and pray I draw a Fireball next turn” or “Really hope the Secret Paladin does not have consecrate” or even “check to see if that Piloted Shredder is being driven by a Doomsayer” if those are the lines most likely to win you the game. The trick is finding the right plan.
Another crucial aspect to making plans is your opponent’s plan: everyone knows Handlocks love being at 12 health and Patron Warriors want you to have 1/1’s in the late game. You probably should not let them.
Examples always beat theory so let’s give Trump a chance to play against Bloodyface.
Trump is not in the best position here. Bloodyface has more life and board presence. What can Trump do to turn the tide?
So why is Unleash the Hounds for 2 better than Loatheb? Mr.Fungus is one of the better 5 drops around. Well, again it has to do with what Trump’s game plan is and not what’s necessarily the strongest play this turn.
It’s still early in the game, so what does a Midrange hunter’s plan against a Druid look like?
- Control the board until you can burn them out (8-11 turns)
- Play around combo
In terms of how well these plays clear the board the are largely on par. Loatheb gives you a 5/5 against their 2/4 Keeper of the Grove and matches up nicely against their likely turn 6 plays, whether it be Sylvanas Windrunner, Emperor Thaurissan, Azure Drake or Druid of the Claw. The Unleash the Hounds play leaves you in a similar position with a Mad Scientist into a clear board. It is worse to contest big minions coming down next turn but it does help you develop traps earlier. However, Loatheb can do something almost no other card in your deck can do: protect you from the combo for a turn.
Up until now all the talk about plans has been about executing your own combos or accomplishing your goals but a good plan keeps in mind your opponent’s combos as well. I am not advocating to keep Loatheb until turn 8, but in this case you save him from being used for tempo without taking a large board control penalty.
Being Flexible with Win Conditions
When thinking about how to beat a Patron Warrior as a Druid the idea of using your combo to clear patrons and giving your opponent armor in the process is a depressing thought. Your plan involves many charging 4/2’s going face.
Yeah in this case it feels pretty good. I won’t go over this example again except to make one point: Plans should be flexible to accommodate new ways of winning.
What Have We Learned?
The main takeaways are these:
- Know how your deck wins in the specific match up you are playing
- Have a solid understanding of both your win conditions and your opponent’s win conditions so you can take advantage of opportunities during the game.
If you liked this article check out my other article for HSP here: The Trap of the Best Case Scenario or my YouTube channel Enter the Hearth. Please hit the up vote button if you’d like to see more articles like this!