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March 16, 2017

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In-Depth Turn Analysis: Preventing Turn 5 Death


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!

Dragon Priest vs Pirate Warrior

Screenshot was posted by /u/tekbubble on the /r/CompetitiveHS’ “What’s the play weekly” thread. First of all, in this position it’s still impossible to know whether you play against Pirate Warrior or against Dragon Warrior, but tekbubble has confirmed that it was Pirate Warrior. Stats also make that scenario much more likely, as Pirate Warrior is nearly 6 times more popular than Dragon Warrior between ranks 1 and 5, so you’d think about Pirate Warrior when making this play anyway.

Here are some Standard decks for both archetypes (if you don’t know them) to show you what to expect:

  • Dragon Priest – Pretty Standard list. Dragon Priest lists have mostly been figured out and they only differ by 3-4 cards. For example, whether you want to play Dragonfire Potion or not, Blackwing Technician is usually also played in non-Acidic Swamp Ooze lists etc.
  • Pirate Warrior – Some people have thought that Pirate Warrior will be dead after the Small-time Buccaneer nerf. I knew that it’s still going to be played, but I haven’t predicted that it will become the dominating force in the meta. In most of the lists that were already established, STB was replaced with Naga Corsair and that’s the most common deck right now.

When looking at this screenshots, there are a few things to think about. First – your hand is really good, that’s the kind of winning hand in this matchup. However, the order in which you play those cards and how you utilize your Coin might be really, really crucial. Most of the time, when you think about hard decisions you picture some Control vs Control matchup in the late game, but let me say this – situations when you have to pick between a few plays on turn 1 against a deck that kills you by turn 5 might be the most important decisions you’re making. One wrong move can easily cost you the whole game.

There is not much “history” of the screenshot to talk about – no cards were played prior, Warrior has only dropped N'Zoth's First Mate which you can clearly see on the board. So maybe let’s start with going over the plays, shall we?

Play #1


If you want to preserve the Coin, your only play is Northshire Cleric, which dies on the board, meaning that you won’t be able to extract any value out of the card. Maybe it’s just worth to pass the turn and see how things develop?


  • You should have a better look at the situation next turn + one extra card to work with. You can also coin out a 3-drop on turn 2 if necessary.
  • You save your Northshire Cleric for the future.


  • Let’s be honest, you won’t have time to utilize Cleric’s effect in the future. If you lose the early game, you die so fast that you won’t have a chance to heal your minions.
  • You float mana. Even though it’s only 1 mana, every bit of tempo is important against Pirate Warrior.
  • You see how things develop, but at the same time your other plays might be easier to counter next turn, with more stuff on the board. What if Warrior plays Bloodsail Raider? He should be able to counter whatever you want to do now.

Play #2

Northshire Cleric

In that case, you don’t play Cleric for the effect. It’s one of those rare scenarios where you play it for the 1/3 body. It directly threatens the 1/1’s on the board and while it will probably die, it will take off some pressure from the board.


  • 1/1’s don’t seem threatening, but if they would stay on the board for the next 3 or 4 turns, that’s a lot of damage they threaten in total. In this case, Northshire Cleric is similar to Voidwalker – even though it doesn’t technically have Taunt, the Warrior will probably want to kill it, because of the Coin + Kabal Talonpriest potential.
  • If the Warrior ignores it, it’s even better for you and he gets punished.
  • No matter whether it dies or not, it saves the Coin. For example, if you draw another Dragon by turn 3, you can have a really solid curve of Cleric -> Wyrmrest Agent -> Twilight Guardian, which might be enough to stop the Warrior.


  • You most likely won’t get an opportunity to use Cleric’s effect later – like I’ve mentioned, usually it’s not a big deal, but sometimes you end up healing minions (like Taunt minions) and having extra cards is never bad.
  • Warrior can kill it without really losing tempo – by either developing a 2-drop and killing it with his own board OR by playing Fiery War Axe, Warrior is still ahead in terms of tempo.

Play #3

Coin + Wyrmrest Agent

Highest tempo play you can make in this situation. You have to use the Coin, but you put a 2/4 Taunt on the board that directly contests everything on the board without dying. Great short-term play, but you use your Coin already.


  • 2/4 Taunt on turn 1 is really powerful. Warrior has only 3 damage on the board, so he can’t kill it – he needs to use additional resources.
  • If it stays on the board, turn 2 Hero Power to heal up the Taunt becomes a solid play.
  • If the Warrior somehow won’t be able to kill it until turn 3 (not likely) it’s an amazing Kabal Talonpriest target.
  • If it gets killed with Fiery War Axe, you have an Acidic Swamp Ooze to follow, which now also can’t be contested on the board.


  • You use the Coin and the only other 2-drop you have is Acidic Swamp Ooze, which you might not want to play.
  • It doesn’t give you much more value against Fiery War Axe than Cleric does, while the loss of Coin is quite important.
  • At 2 Attack, it won’t contest a potential Bloodsail Raider.

Play #4

Coin + Acidic Swamp Ooze

Ooze is one of the best cards in this matchup, destroying a weapon either heals you (if the weapon would target face) or gives you the necessary tempo (if the weapon would kill one of your minions). However, is the 1/2 weapon really a good enough target to use Ooze on?


  • You deal with the weapon, so you play around Upgrade!. But Upgrade is not a great target again.
  • You put a 3/2 body on the board, so you (most likely) basically trade it for the whole board, including weapon.


  • Trading a 2-drop for a whole board sounds great, but you need to remember that this whole board was made with a single 1 mana card. So a card that is meant to buy you tempo in this matchup actually loses it here.
  • There are many weapons which are better Ooze targets than a 1/2. Even a single swing of Fiery War Axe or Arcanite Reaper, not to mention the Upgrade effects.
  • You use the Coin, which might be more useful later.


I’ll start with the easy part – by ruling out 2 plays that I would never make in this situation. It’s the Play #1 and Play #4, let me explain you why.

Play #1 – passing a turn – is really, really bad one to make. On the one hand, it might seem like a good alternative to playing Cleric (if you don’t want to use Coin). In some other matchups you might indeed want to pass here, but not in this one. Every minion, every bit of tempo is incredibly important. The games are usually decided by turn 5-6, which means that those two 1/1’s that seem weak are actually one of the biggest threats you can face. If you leave them be, Warrior will get more tempo and you will be forced to answer whatever new minions he plays, maybe even leaving those alive for few more turns. After a while, their damage will cumulate and you can’t allow that. You also try to not float any mana, as it basically means that you’re losing the tempo. You absolutely have to play something here.

Play #4 – dropping Acidic Swamp Ooze – is another play I wouldn’t make in this scenario. To be fair, the play is not bad – it’s just that a) Ooze will get more value later and b) you have an alternative. If that was your only viable play, I would go for it, but in that case you get to choose something else and save your Ooze. That 1/2 weapon won’t likely get huge, destroying it won’t likely change the clock or your position. But if you hit an Arcanite Reaper when Warrior was holding onto Upgrade!, then we’re talking.

So, I would pick between one of the two plays – Play #2 (Northshire Cleric and Play #3 (Coin + Wyrmrest Agent). I have to say that the choice is rather difficult. Both plays have its merits and it really, really depends on the rest of your opponent’s hand to determine which play is the best one. Let me first discuss a Coin in this matchup a bit. It’s actually hard to say whether going second puts you ahead on behind. With such a hand, you’d definitely want to go first, because you have a smooth curve. But at the same time, Pirate Warrior really wants to have a Coin, because a) he wants to tempo out on the first turns and b) the deck’s turn 2 is very limited and Coin gives an option to Coin out a 3-drop. But since you have a Coin and you can’t do anything about it, you want to make the best use out of it. Coin will allow you to make a single tempo swing – e.g. playing Wyrmrest Agent on t1 is a tempo swing, but same goes for a turn 3 Twilight Guardian for example. I think that holding onto a Coin for a t3 Guardian might be the best play, but there is a catch. You don’t have another Dragon in your hand to activate it right now, and that’s the main reason why I would consider just going for the Wyrmrest Agent right away.

When you play Cleric here, you’re guaranteed to lose the board and be behind again. However, if you drop Wyrmrest Agent, there is a chance that Warrior doesn’t have any extra damage and he won’t be able to kill your minion, which is really great. The most common answer here would probably be Fiery War Axe. And while both cards are getting killed by FWA, to kill the 4 health minion, Warrior will need to trade one of his 1/1’s. Why is this important? Because if Warrior plays FWA, then your turn 2 play is 100% of time Acidic Swamp Ooze. If you go Cleric into Ooze, your Ooze is dead on the board. But if you go Wyrmrest into Ooze, your Ooze survives on the board, as there is only a 1/1. Why is this important? Because you still have Kabal Talonpriest in your hand and that would be insane turn 3 play if your Ooze survived. Of course, the fact that Warrior can’t clear it on the board doesn’t guarantee that he won’t have a way to do so in his hands. For example, Argent Horserider is a quite common card in Pirate Warrior lists and it trades cleanly into the Ooze. So it’s mostly about taking risks here. If Warrior answered with FWA, you’d Ooze it and the Ooze would survive, you have the game in your pocket already – you will have a 3/5 and 3/4 minion on turn 3 which should be enough to take the board control and then a 3/6 Taunt to follow-up. Great position. But at the cost of Coin. If you end up with no board on turn 3, which is also likely, then you have to play a naked Kabal Talonpriest, which isn’t a great t3 move. It’s better than nothing, but you’d really prefer to have that 3/6 Taunt here and THEN follow it up with Kabal.

So all in all, I have to say that Play #2 (Cleric) is probably a safer one, as it saves the Coin, which opens for more possible plays in the following turns. I would most likely go for that play if I had another Dragon in my hand, so that I could be sure that I can play t3 Guardian. Now you have 2 turns to draw a Dragon if you want to go for that play and the chance is actually not as high as you might think – with only 8 (maybe 9, depending on the list) Dragons left in the deck (vs 25 more cards left to draw), you might miss it. That’s the reason I would probably go for the a little bit more risky play – Play #3 (Wyrmrest Agent). If Warrior had no way to answer it, that’s good for me. And if he has a way to answer it, the most likely one is Fiery War Axe, for which I have an answer. The risk is mostly on turn 3 – can Warrior kill my Ooze or will it survive? I like my odds here and I think that Ooze surviving and me buffing it with Kabal is basically a game for me.

However, I have to say that those 2 plays are very close and I think that both make perfect sense and I wouldn’t mind taking either of them.


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. ivory says:

    Good post. I personally picked Cleric because it was safer but your pick of coining out Agent makes sense.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi stonekeep, really enjoy these posts!

    Regarding your conclusion, if there is not really much difference in either play then shouldn’t the fringe match up of dragon warrior be considered?

    If priest plays cleric, on turn three warrior could play Alex champ, eats cleric for free and you take 3 face damage. Priest then plays, ooze play sucks and wrymrest agent only serves to fuel the frothing bezerker landing on the next turn.

    Priest could coin the agent instead, if warrior plays fwa priest ooze and if warrior plays Alex champ priest is screwed again? Does this simply lead to the conclusion that if the warrior is dragon then matchup was decided when priest didn’t draw t1 whelp?