Welcome to the Messiah's weekly series of articles that examines many interesting, popular, powerful, or just plain different deck builds that are out there for the Hearthstone Constructed Deck format.
MAGE - FREEZE DECK
This weeks deck is one that was popular early in Hearthstone but then lost steam as other decks went on to dominate the game. Now that the meta has had time to evolve a bit the deck has come back in a slightly new form and is pretty popular and powerful right now.
The deck I am speaking of is a freeze based Mage deck. The aim of a freeze deck is to keep the opponent slowed down throughout the early and mid-game phases until you can finish them off in the late game. The deck has many different ways to control the game early on, mainly through the use of spells. Later on there are many different finishing combos that can win the game.
Since the deck is heavily control based, it takes some patience to play correctly as you have very little chance to win before turn 10. If you have issues waiting out opponents, then this deck is likely not for you.
There are several versions of decks like this out there, here is the list I have been using.
- Mage Cards:
- 2x Ice Lance
- 2x Mirror Image
- 2x Frostbolt
- 2x Arcane Intellect
- 2x Frost Nova
- 1x Ice Barrier
- 2x Ice Block
- 1x Cone of Cold
- 2x Fireball
- 1x Water Elemental
- 2x Blizzard
- 1x FlameStrike
- 1x Pyroblast
- Neutral Cards
- 1x Bloodmage Thalnos
- 1x Doomsayer
- 1x Wild Pyromancer
- 2x Novice Engineer
- 2x Azure Drake
- 1x Ragnaros
- 1x Alexstrasza
This deck has many critical cards that work best in combination with each other. Therefore it is important to understand how each card works and why it is important. That part is covered here for the most important cards. How they work together is covered in the strategy section later on in the guide.
Frostbolt, Frost Nova, Cone of Cold, and Blizzard – All of these cards serve as direct damage or slowing effects. They can be used to control or kill your opponents minions. In the control method you are using them so that you do not take damage for a turn from the affected minions. While possible to use the AOE ones against a single minion, you should not do so unless you would be killed or unless the minion will inflict more than 6 damage.
Ice Lance – Another control card, or a damage card if the target is already frozen. This card should not be used by itself though.
Water Elemental – This is a great minion for a freeze mage since it can give you another way to freeze enemy minions or the enemy player themselves.
Wild Pyromancer – A great minion against the various agro decks out there like Shockadin and Zoo. Also solid since there are few other minions in this deck. If you are facing a large number of agro decks on the ladder a second of these can be added in exchange for a Novice Engineer.
Doomsayer – A really powerful minion due to its ability to clear the board. Team him up with a mass freeze effect like Frost Nova, Cone of Cold, or Blizzard and he becomes an almost guaranteed board clear.
Azure Drake – A staple card in so many decks. A 4/4 with spell damage and a card draw for 5 mana. It helps almost any deck out there.
Fireball and Pyroblast – End game big damage spells to take out your opponent.
Alexstraza – Part of your primary end game win condition. Being able to drop an opponent to 15 health, even if they have not taken any so far in the game, gets them within burst range on the following turn.
Ragnaros – This is a secondary end game win card that provides a big threat to your opponent if you have managed to keep the board clear.
IDEAL OPENING HAND CARDS
This deck wins by controlling the board from the start of the match and waiting until the late game to win. This means focusing on early game cards in your hand no matter how good some cards you draw can be 4-5 turns later. It also is important to recognize your end game finishing cards, even though they could be used early.
Before listing the best cards to keep in your starting hand, it is important to note which cheap cards actually make up parts of your finishing combos. The cheap ones are Ice Lance, Frostbolt, and Bloodmage Thalnos. Therefore they should never be kept in your opening hand.
The best cards to look for in your opening hand, and to try to mulligan for are: Novice Engineer, Arcane Intellect, Mirror Image, Wild Pyromancer, or Frost Nova. Mulligan anything else away except potentially Cone of Cold if you are going second and facing an agro deck.
Just to remind you again, it is critically important to be patient and think long term with this deck. Many times you will not actually play any cards until turn 3-4 because you simply don’t need to. The deck is about minimizing the damage you take until you get to a point where you can kill the enemy in a single turn.
To that end, in the early stages of the game you need to keep the board clear as much as possible. Remembering to use your hero power to take off that final point of a minions health any time you can instead of using a card.
Once you reach the middle of the game which is turns 4-8 then your strategy really starts to move. In this timeframe you are looking to keep the early control but to also draw cards to setup a large hand with many threats and to put key elements into play. During this timeframe want to ensure you get your Ice Block and Ice Barrier into play.
In the later part of the mid-game you also need to clear the board by destroying all of the enemy minions so that the end game is yours. You have several options available on how to clear the board, depending on what style deck your opponent is playing. Against agro or zoo, often a Blizzard, or a Wild Pyromancer and any single spell is all you need. Against decks with more powerful minions then Flamestrike can clean up. Against even larger minions (or anything really) a Doomsayer followed by a Frost Nova or Blizzard can pretty much always clear the board.
The end game starts on turn 9 and this is where you start to win the game. Depending on the cards you have in hand on turn 9 you want to summon either Alexstraza or Ragnaros, with the heavy preference being Alexstraza unless for some amazing reason the enemy is already below 15 health. After one of those minions is in play you then want to finish the game with your combos.
Just a few of the game winning combos in the deck are:
- 15 damage (10 mana) – Fireball, Fireball, Frostbolt
- 14 damage (6 mana) - Frostbolt, Frostbolt, Ice Lance, Ice Lance
- 18 damage (8 mana) - Bloodmage Thalnos, Frostbolt, Ice Lance, Ice Lance
- 20 damage (10 mana) – Fireball, Frostbolt. Frostbolt, Ice Lance, Ice Lance
- 21 damage (10 mana) - Bloodmage Thalnos, Fireball, Frostbolt, Ice Lance, Ice Lance
There are many other combos available and all of them get better if you are able to still have an Azure Drake around on the board for the extra spell damage.
At this point you should have won the game. If something goes wrong though and you haven’t, make sure your priority is finding a kill method (using combos above), staying alive (get a second Ice Block in place), board control, and card draw. If you find yourself in this position often though, it means you are rushing your late game more than you should. If you do not have the cards in hand to finish your opponent the turn after you play either Alexstraza or Ragnaros, then you should not be playing them, wait until you can finish your opponent the following turn. Setting up for a win condition and then not being able to win, puts you in a far worse position than just stalling another few turns.
There are many other cards available that you can substitute into the deck if you either don't have all of the cards required or if you feel like making a change in the decks playstyle.
Big Game Hunter – This minion helps control the enemies late game minions so that you do not have to rely on just your spells and control. Since it is a minion that does not really fit the rest of the deck though, only add him in if you are hitting mainly handlocks in the ladder.
Leeroy Jenkins – Many mage decks use Leeroy as an addition win method for the mid-late game. He is essentially a Fireball that sticks around (briefly) but has a downside of giving your opponent two 1/1 minions. I prefer not having him in the deck, but some players like that third fireball equivalent.
Second Doomsayer or Wild Pyromancer – Adding a second Doomsayer and removing the Wild Pyromancer is an option if you run into mid or late game decks a lot. If you run into main agro decks then adding a second Wild Pyromancer instead may be your best option. By default I like one of each, but either one works.
Gadgetzan Auctioneer– Having so many spells in this deck, this card has a lot of potential to replace cards as you use them. The issue is that many of your spells are saved for a big finish, and if done correctly do not need to be replaced. Some players like the option though.
Archmage Antonidas – This minion makes a lot of sense in providing more options to you for finishing a game. At 7 mana he is a little high price for a 5/7, but that 7 health lets him stick around a while. The main bonus is once in play you get a fireball card for every spell you cast. This leads to a great combo of the Archmage and a Frost Nova on turn 9 (almost guaranteeing his safety), and then back to back pairs of fireballs on turn 10 and 11.
Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mana Wyrm, and Arcane Missiles – For players that face off against a lot of agro decks and want to agro right back you can add in 2 of each of these cards to shift the deck to an early game deck. The combo of these cards provides additional early game threat and makes the late game start earlier if the Sorcerer’s Apprentice is not dealt with by your opponent.
HOW TO PLAY AGAINST IT
Playing against this deck can be frustrating if it gets the cards it needs to keep you slowed constantly. There are a few things that you can do to make their life less pleasant though and to try and pull out a win.
One of the best things to do is to present threats one at a time as much as possible. This means keeping single strong minions out at a time rather than multiple minions that can be hit by the decks AOE effects.
The second thing to do against this deck is to be ready for the turn 9+ Alexstraza and the win combo. This means that you need to either rush to win earlier than that, or to save up healing abilities until after Alexstraza is played and then heal out of burst range. Warriors are really strong at doing this, since only health is affected, and often times a Warrior can get to the late game with 10+ armor and therefore when dropped to 15 health, they really have 25 due to the armor bonus.
The last thing to keep in mind is to recognize that there will not be many minions played, therefore any minions you have that affect enemy minions can be played an any point to do damage early rather than to save them to deal with minions. The note of caution here is that something should be saved to deal with either Alexstraza or Ragnaros in the late game, but as long as you save 1 you should be ok.
As mentioned at the start, this style of deck is a classic deck style for Mages. While it fell out of favour for a while, it has returned to the meta and is successful again. You should give it a shot and let me know how you fair with the deck in the comment section below.