Hello everyone. Today I want to talk all about removal in the arena. It has always been a hard topic to grasp especially for newer players. It’s hard to know how much removal in your deck is too little and how much is too much. I will do my best to explain everything you need to know about drafting and playing removal.
Types of removal
Removal spells can be separated into 3 different categories. Those are small removal, hard removal and AoE (Area of Effect) removal. Each category serves it’s purpose.
Small removal is a spell which deals 1-3 damage. Examples : Holy Smite , Darkbomb, Quick Shot. Small removal spells are meant to be used in the early game and therefore they cost very little mana to use. Small removal spells give little to none card advantage, however they can be a good way to gain much-needed tempo in the early game. Since they deal more damage than their mana cost often time you can get a 1 or 2 mana advantage by killing an early drop with spells which deal 2 or 3 damage. Here is an example: you use a Darkbomb to kill opponent’s . In this exchange you traded 1 for 1 for card advantage so no surprise there, however you got 1 mana advantage which you can turn into tempo advantage by playing a 1 drop for example. On top of that small removal can sometimes save your high attack low health minions from small drops. For example: you have an Ethereal Conjurer on the board. Your opponent has a Bloodfen Raptor on the board. In this situation a small removal like a Frostbolt has very good value since it protects your conjurer from dying. If you use a Frostbolt on the Raptor you will be able to attack your opponent for 6 face damage this turn and 6 more potentially next turn. Other than situations like these small removal isn’t great in the mid and late game. Starting from turn 5 small removal won’t be able to kill big drops by itself. From that point on if you want to remove opponent’s minion you would have to kill it with two Frostbolt for example. Even though you gain mana advantage most of the time, you will eventually run out of cards and lose the game.
There are 2 types of hard removal. First type is cards which straight up transform or kill a minion. Examples: Assassinate, Hex or Shatter. The other type is spells which deal a lot of damage, usually enough to kill almost any minion. For example: Pyroblast, or Lava Burst. The benefit of these cards is that you can use most of them on your opponent’s face when needed unlike transform cards. Overall hard removal has very varying costs from 3 (Hex) to 10 (Pyroblast). Hard removal has a lot of purposes in the game. WIth hard removal you can get card advantage by killing a minion with buffs (for example using Assassinate to kill a Chillwind Yeti which had a Blessing of Kings cast on him). Hard removal can also provide you with tempo advantage like using Hex on a Boulderfist Ogre. It also helps you to clear a big threat if you do not have enough minions on the board. The later the turn the better hard removal gets. If you use a hex to kill a Pit Fighter on turn 5 it is not as effective as using it on a Bog Creeper. Hard removal sometimes can win games on it’s own. If you already have a decent board with some high attack minions and your opponent drops a big minion, by using hard removal you keep your board untouched. With that you can send all minions to face this turn and the next one if your opponent doesn’t have AoE.
Area of Effect removal
Area of Effect (AoE) removal does damage to more than 1 minion. How many minions AoE hits depends on the spell. There are spells like which hit 2 minions whilst there are cards like Flamestrike which hit all enemy minions. Note that AoE can affect your own board with some spells like Elemental Destruction or Hellfire. Be aware of these and don’t hit your minions accidentally. One of the main purposes of AoE is to get card advantage by killing multiple minions with one card. Although AoE spells can give some tempo advantage they are usually played for other reason. The most important reason to play AoE is to catch up on the board when you are behind. Hard hitting AoE like Flamestrike or Elemental Destruction can completely reset the board giving you a fresh start to trying out tempo your opponent. If your opponent isn’t careful enough he may overextend on the board. At that point if you use AoE and kill all of his minions he may not have enough resources to build a strong board again. Then you can play many small costed minions and flood the board. If your opponent doesn’t have AoE himself he will lose the game on point. That is the power of AoE. Another great thing about AoE is that it allows to get in a lot of face damage from your board. For example as a Hunter you played 3 Bloodfen Raptor. Your opponent answers with 3 minions which have 2 health. Then you use Powershot on the 3 opponent’s minions killing them all. WIth 3 raptors you go face and do 9 damage. Next turn if your opponent doesn’t have removal, you can do another 9. With the power of AoE you can often do enough damage to your opponent’s face so you can finish them off with reach.
It’s no surprise that there are spells which combine 2 types of removal. For example Twisting Nether is AoE combined with hard removal. Combinations of AoE with hard removal are usually too expensive to play therefore aren’t worth it. There are also combinations of AoE plus light removal. A great example of this is Shadow Word: Horror which removes bunch of small minions from your opponent’s board. Cards like Mad Bomber or Arcane Missiles can be considered a combination of AoE and small removal since they do damage to multiple minions and the damage isn’t high enough to remove late game threats. Overall the combinations of AoE + small or hard removal aren’t known to perform too well. You don’t see Shadow Word: Horror played every day for sure. Missile type cards such as Avenging Wrath involve a lot of rng which you don’t want if your goal is to become infinite. You want to know what you get from each card and missile type cards just aren’t reliable enough to play them often. And lastly often times you will see minions with removal abilities attached to them. For example Dark Iron Skulker. Skulker combines a 4/3 body with a conditional 2 damage AoE ability. You have cards like Stormpike Commando which combine a body with a small removal. And lastly you have cards like The Black Knight which have a body with conditional hard removal.
How many removal cards you want in a deck?
Removal cards provide flexibility to your deck. It gives you an option to either develop your own minions or remove opponent’s. Therefore if you have too little spells you won’t draw them and your hands won’t have many options. On the other hand if you have too many spells your hands will consist of mostly spells and you won’t have many minions to develop to make your board strong. It’s all about finding that golden middle. You want to have a diversity of removals. This means it is a lot better to have something like 3 small removal, 2 hard removal, 2 AoE removal in your deck than 6 hard removal.
How much of each type removal you want depends on a lot of factors. The first one is your deck’s archetype. Is your deck an aggressive one or is it leaning towards control?. With aggressive decks you will want to have more small removal than usual. This is because as an aggressive deck it is very important to take the board in the early game and damage to cost efficient small removal helps a lot. On the other hand having a lot of AoE isn’t a good option as a very aggressive deck since AoE is best when you are behind on the board. As an aggressive deck you should have a few hard removal spells. Use them to seal the game when opponent drops a big minion or a taunt. When you see that your deck leans towards control archetype you will want to draft removals differently. First of all AoE becomes very valuable because you will likely be behind on the board most of the time and AoE gives a nice card advantage over your opponent. Hard removals aren’t that good in control decks. This is because if your deck is more control oriented than your opponent’s he will most likely play few small minions instead of big late game drops. Some light removal is very nice in control decks as it helps not to fall too behind on the board. Mid range decks want to have around equal mix of all types of removal since they are in the middle between aggressive and control.
The class you are playing decides a lot on how many removal cards you want. The thing is that each class has a different amount of removals available to that class. For example Mage is well-known to have some of the best removal in the game of all types: Flamestrike, Frostbolt, Polymorph. However other classes have an abundance of one type removal and lack some other types of removal. Let’s take a look at Paladin for example. Paladin has quite a few ways to deal with small minions with cards like Truesilver Champion, Seal of Light or Hammer of Wrath. Although Paladin has quite a bit of variety in small removal what he lacks is hard removal. Paladin has no spells that just say kill a minion. Besides Equality which affects your own board too and needs to be comboed with other card, Paladin doesn’t have a way to deal with big threats. The only way for Paladin to deal with big threats is to use buffs on minions like Blessing of Kings or Seal of Champions and trade them into opponents big minions. So during draft you want to pick as many good quality buffs as possible. Because without them you will get screwed if your opponent plays a card like Bog Creeper. There are other examples of classes lacking certain removal. Druid has quite a bit small removal, however lacks both hard removal and AoE. Rogue lacks AoE, but has plenty of both small and hard removal. Warlock doesn’t have good quality hard removal but has plenty of small removal and AoE.
Quality of removal
And lastly how much removal you should have in a deck comes down to the quality of it and how late you are in a draft. For example if you managed to get 1 or 2 hard removal in your first 10 picks then you can ignore all the poor hard removals moving on later in the draft. This goes with all types of removal. If by 15th pick during a draft you already have 2 Flamestrike, feel free to skip that Blizzard and pick a solid minion. Be careful, however if you pick too much sub par removal like Cone of Cold you may be forced to pass up top-tier removal like Flamestrike later on in the draft. The general rule of thumb is to pick quality cards for the first 10-15 picks during the draft. That means you should only worry about having too much or too little removal only after you have picked your first 10 cards of your deck. At that point you should have a general idea of what your deck’s archetype will turn out to be and you’ll be able to pick your removal cards accordingly.
How to play removal?
Now lastly it’s time to talk about when and how to play removal. It’s hard to describe how to play removal as situation varies from game to game, however there are general tips I can give that may help you understand more about playing removal. When deciding between removing a minion with a removal or playing your own minion you should always ask yourself does playing removal put me in a bigger advantage than playing a minion. For example it is turn 5 and your opponent has only a Chillwind Yeti on the board and in you can either kill the Yeti with Fireball or play a Pit Fighter. In this scenario you want to think which play puts you ahead on the board. If you play a Fireball and kill the Yeti the board becomes clear and your opponent will be able to play a strong minion or two in turn putting you in a disadvantage. If you chose to play a Pit Fighter, however you get a chance to become ahead on the board. Next turn you will most likely be able to kill the Yeti with Pit Fighter and use your Fireball on the next minion your opponent played. After doing that you put yourself ahead on the board with a 5/2 minion. As mentioned previously in the article removal can be quite effective when you are ahead on the board. If you have a big board of small minions and opponent plays a Bog Creeper instead of suiciding all minions into it use hard removal and go face with minion. Yet if you have good trades on the board you shouldn’t ignore them. If you’re able to kill a Spider Tank for free with a Yeti you should even though you miss out on 4 face damage.
That’s all for today. Thank you for reading. Take parts of the guide which you need and apply them in the game. If you have any questions or feedback in general feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer. Until next time.