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My Wordle Strategy

Submitted by Joel on Tue, 02/15/2022 - 15:25

I love the game Wordle. I've spent way too much time on strategy for it, I have to admit. So I thought I'd make a blog post out of it. If you haven't played, click HERE. It's a simple word guessing game, so follow that link and read the rules if you don't know what it is.

Now, I spent a lot of time on my strats before I realized there was a Hard Mode. So the first part of this is Basic Mode Wordle. 

BASIC Wordle Strats

To start off with, I consider SCRABBLE a pretty useful guide to the commonality of letters. One point letters are more common, etc. 
1 - A E I O U (vowels) L N R S T
2 - D G
3 - B C M P
4 - F H V W Y
5 - K 
8 - J X
10 - Q Z

So I want my first guess to use all common letters and avoid duplicates (e.g. JAZZY would be right out as my first guess, as would ERROR). Your first word is really important to solving in as few guesses as possible, so I really want it to give as much information as possible. I have heard ADIEU being used a lot for the vowels, but that D isn't great in my opinion. I considered TIERS and actually used TOURS for a while, but plural words that just add S (like WANDS) have never been used as a solution, so the ending S seemed wasted. So I came up with STALE, but switched to SLATE and still use it today (as of this writing). 

I really like the benefits of the positions of the letters of SLATE. If 'L' is in a word, it helps so much to know it's in that second place (like in PLACE). Knowing if the E ends the word helps a lot, too, as does that starting S. So that's my starting word, SLATE. Now what?

Depending on the information given, I like to follow it up with completely different letters. It's what I call an INFO GUESS. And my second word is IRONY. This gives me so much good information! Yes, I drop the U, but often that U is pretty obvious when it's missing. Yes, 'Y' is a 4 point letter, but it really narrows down words. It's a 'sometimes' vowel that you often just don't consider and can really mess with you. And if I STILL need more information, I follow that up with CHUMP. (No D or G?! Well, Scrabble uses past tense and gerunds, so -ed and -ing are very common and useful, but not so much in this with only 5 letters, so I drop them in importance.)

So now I have a really good set of letters in my word. I want 3 letters before I really give a try at the word itself, so I start making a list of possible words. If I'm struggling, I'll come up with patterns. If I have STA, but don't know the location, I'll write down ??AST, AST??, ?AST? etc and start coming up with possibilities, like AVAST, ASTRA, CASTE. If my list is too long, I make an info guess. If I can only come up with a couple words, I'll go for it. I also haven't seen any derivatives of words, such as past tense or plural, so I'll take certain words off my list like TRIES or GIVER (unless I'm just searching for info). Who knows, though, if words like that might come in the future! (EDIT - It seems irregular forms of words are fair game, so THESE (plural of THIS) was an answer)

After a while, though, I realized that you have 6 guesses with 5 letters each and only 26 letters in the alphabet. The first 5 words can pretty much give you everything you need to guarantee a win, so I wanted more of a challenge, so I decided to go to Hard Mode. If you want my list of 'guaranteed victory' words, here it is: 
NYMPH, WALTZ, SQUIB, FJORD, GECKO (this leaves X and V while duplicating O; 24/26)

Going to HARD MODE

Hard mode requires you to use all hints in your next guess, although I did find out you can still make mistakes. So if SLATE gives me green S and yellow A, I could still guess SCARE even though I didn't move A and know that E isn't in it. But no longer could I guess IRONY since it doesn't have S at the start or A in the word. 

Hard mode can be really dangerous, though. Imagine if your first word was SIGHT and the actual word was MIGHT. -IGHT would be green, but now what? LIGHT, RIGHT, TIGHT, FIGHT, etc, etc. On Basic Mode, you can just go with FILER and bump three of them off the list with one guess. So you have to be careful with your first word. SLATE still gives me wiggle room (so far at least) that I still like it. Just be careful! If you make your list and realize there are a ton of duplicates that only swap out one letter, I would guess a word that narrows down those options. It definitely makes Hard Mode a lot harder!

Still, the strategy is pretty similar. I make my list of potential words and try to come up with a word that gives the most information, unless I think I'm close enough to 'go for it'. I go for lower point letters first (often dropping D, G, U lower on the list, and bumping up Y). I also think it's really important to focus on CONSONANTS for your next guesses on Hard Mode. For instance, lately people have been getting caught on words and I've noticed that their second guess had a lot of vowels in it. I start with SLATE, but my next guess, I try to use as many new consonants as possible. If I miss the A and E, I will try I, but not IO, for instance. You have 6 guesses. Save each vowel for a subsequent guess. That way, if you get GGXGG and that X isn't AEI, you've only got two (or sometimes 3) vowels left to try. But if you get into a XIGHT situation and you're looking for a consonant, you could be in real trouble!

Here's a recent specific example of making my word list: Recently the final word was CATER. Not a word many people consider. Here is a list of possible words ending in -ATER: CATER, DATER, EATER, HATER, LATER, RATER, TATER, WATER. That could be real trouble even if your first word is LATER (which is a decent first word, fyi). As I said above, though, there haven't been any extension words used yet, so you can prioritize the list: CATER, LATER, TATER, WATER. But TATER is slang, which is also unused, to my knowledge, so that just leaves CATER, LATER, WATER. With a good first word, like SLATE, LATER is eliminated. Now, obviously, if CATER isn't on your list, you're in real trouble. My suggestion: don't put in a low-probability word like HATER before doing a full alphabetical list. CATER should have popped up after doing that and then: LATER, WATER ... (make full list) ... CATER. That gives a 3, 4 or 5 max. Hope that helps!

CHEATING

There are many ways to 'cheat' at Wordle. The easiest is open a new browser (I use Chrome, so open up a Microsoft Edge window) and play there and use that info. I allow no hints at all, though. If I know someone's first word or any of their strategy at all, I don't want to see their green/yellow or even know that it took them 4 guesses. When I compare with someone all I want to know is 'DONE'. Just about anything else is too much info. I also won't let anyone give me words that fit. Now, I'll give MY word list and let them pick one. I've done the work, they're just a random number generator at that point. I also won't use any word generators. If I'm not sure a word is legal, I use the Wordle page to test it, so I better be ready to make it an official guess!

 

What do you think of these rules? What about the strategies? Do you think I think too much about Wordle? Well, you're probably right! Tell me in the comments!