The amount of time that an opponent takes before making their move can tell you about their hand. If they have different lines of play, then it will take longer for them to figure out the best line of play and they won’t attack as fast. If they have a very clear line of play such as attacking with their entire army followed by a Harsh Rule, then the opponent may play very quickly.
Working backwards… we can sometimes infer information about an opponent’s hand based on how quickly they play. An opponent that attacks very quickly with a “bad” attack probably has Rapid Shot or Harsh Rule in their hand.
Harsh Rule will kill your units. So, the best line of play is usually to have your entire unit do a suicide run on the opponent. Many opponents will not block all of your attackers (I am one of those people). By attacking with your entire army before a Harsh Rule, you can land some free damage on your opponent.
- Don’t do this if the opponent has Lifesteal units on board. They will obviously gain life from your attack…
- Some decks play Backlash, which requires Primal influence and 2 open power.
What to do if somebody attacks in with their entire army
When I see a Combrei opponent do a derpy attack with their entire army, a few things come to mind:
- They might have Harsh Rule.
- They might have Stand Together.
- They might have Harsh Rule and Stand Together.
So I want to know if they have Stand Together, which is the 3-power combat trick that permanently buffs their army by +1/+1 and gives the units Aegis. If I have been paying attention to the priority steps (sometimes I don’t), then I would know if Stand Together is in their hand. There is a very small chance that the opponent drew Stand Together without revealing it in a priority window… so that creates a small amount of uncertainty even if I did watch the priority windows.
Doing the combat math, I could play around Stand Together by making sure I overkill attacking units by 1 point of damage. This may let one or more attacking units through, allowing my opponent to land some free damage. I also know that my opponent can do the same combat math. Depending on their attack, I could infer as to whether or not they were hoping that I would block in a certain way so that they could get some value out of Stand Together.
In any case, suppose that the opponent has Harsh Rule. In that situation, I would want to block the attackers and deny my opponent the free damage. How quickly my opponent attacks tells me a lot about whether I am dealing with situation #1, or #2/#3. An opponent with #2 or #3 in hand will take a lot longer before attacking.
Don’t attack right away
To prevent yourself from giving away free information to your opponent, you may want to waste some time before attacking.
Click on your units like you’re debating between different attack sequences
Sometimes when players have combat tricks in hand, they have to think through different combinations of attackers and blockers. They will select attackers only to de-select them later.
So, when you don’t have combat tricks in hand, you want to behave like you do have tricks in hand. Click on your units like you’re doing combat math in your head.
Why I don’t block derpy attacks from Justice decks + why you should kamikaze your army before Harsh Rule
I have played a lot of aggro decks like Monojustice and its shadow-splashing variant. Against Combrei decks, I am the beatdown. Combrei is a slow deck that is unlikely to kill me with damage, unless it is the aggressive aegis-abusing variant (with Copperhall Elite, Crownwatch, Gilded Glaive, etc.). Damage from Combrei decks often does not matter in these matchups. So, I will block as if the opponent has Stand Together if they cannot kill any defenders that I care about. Otherwise I won’t block and will allow my opponent to deal free damage. I do not want to lose units that help me kill my opponent faster.
This is why you should attack. Many skilled players will play around combat tricks that you do not have. Higher level players tend to do this more. With the new client update, you can see players’ rank from the previous season. Rank tends to be a good indicator of skill.
Bandit Queen decks
Bandit Queen decks will run into situations where there are different attacking and blocking combinations. The following situations will cause Bandit Queen players to take time to think:
- The attacking Bandit Queen player only has 1 combat trick, while the defending player has 2 good blockers. The Bandit Queen player may not want to attack with more than 1 unit since one of the attackers will get eaten by the second defender.
- Shadowlands Guide. The Bandit Queen player might kamikaze some units because they have Guide in hand, or is hoping to draw Guide soon.
- Lurking Sanguar. The Bandit Queen player will make a dumb attack just to trigger Lurking Sanguar. This is a very common kamikaze attack from Bandit Queen players, which is why I almost always block.
- The Bandit Queen player has a torch or suffocate but doesn’t want to waste it on a bad defender (e.g. 2/2 Feln Stranger), knowing that the defending player has more problematic defenders like 2/5 blockers, 3/5 blockers, or Sandstorm Titan.
- The Bandit Queen player has 3 power, a removal spell, and a 3-power unit. If they play the removal spell, they cannot play their unit and add to the board.
In any case, the Bandit Queen player might want to waste time and might want to click on their units before attacking to avoid giving away free information.
If your opponent is playing Bandit Queen, then you might be able to infer their hand based on how they attack.
But… don’t waste time if you are grinding ladder
The faster your games go, the more gold you get and the faster you reach Masters. These timing games may be inappropriate if you are simply grinding ladder.
Highly skilled players will use timing information to make a better guess as to what’s in your hand.
To avoid giving away free information, waste time and click around on your units before attacking (calculate combat math for combat tricks that you do not have).
Side Note: The Boardstall Titan free attack
It is common in Combrei mirrors for both sides to have a Sandstorm Titan. I will usually attack with my Sandstorm Titan into the opponent’s if they have 0 power open. If the opponent has 0 power open, they cannot play Stand Together and blow me out. So the attack is safe. If I have Stand Together, I could use it to kill the blocking Sandstorm Titan. This is usually a blow-out because the buffed Sandstorm Titan is hard to deal with and can’t be Harsh Ruled away.
Some opponents don’t block, fearing the Stand Together blowout. So it is worthwhile to do the free attack because sometimes you will get free damage in. And then when you actually have a Stand Together, you’ve already conditioned your opponent to block with their Sandstorm… allowing you to blow them out.