Adapting to GvG: Control Mage

I'm a three-time legend Hearthstone players who is hoping to help others improve and reach their goals. I'll explore the new control mage in this deck guide!

Introduction

Hi everyone! First off, I’d like to introduce myself: my name is JulpaFTW and I’m a three-time legend hearthstone players hoping to help others improve and reach their ladder goals as well.  I’ve been playing Hearthstone since late beta and like building original decks and tweaking them until they can achieve great win-rates on the ladder. The post-GvG meta has been filled with different types of decks and is wonky even weeks after the cards were released, but I quickly identified that the classes that were bothering me were warriors and paladins. With them in mind, today I bring you a control mage deck that works very well with some of the new GvG cards and has solid match-ups all around. Let’s get right to it!

Card Choices

zombie-chow is an excellent card vs aggro. Playing a 2/3 on turn one allows you to trade with most of the early-game creatures that are going to come out of hunter and warlock decks. The drawback is irrelevant: all you’re looking for is getting to the lategame, and this guy’s board presence can help you survive more aggressive openings by your opponents.

unstable-portal is really often talked about as being severely overpowered nowadays. In my opinion, it’s a strong card that allows you to save tempo when you’re ahead. Think of it like an inverse overload: you get an extra three mana during a future turn. At worst, this card will cost you two mana for a bad creature, at best, you’ll be playing a turn 3 6-mana creature which will be difficult for your opponent to deal with . The fact that it can win you games on the spot makes it a good, yet not quite overpowered addition in my opinion.

snowchugger is everyone’s favourite little guy! Seriously, apart from the awesome sound effect, he’s a solid choice for the 2-drop slot: 2/3 stats are fairly standard and his ability stops weapons classes right in their tracks. You don’t really get a feel for the power of his effect until you’re up against it. It’s only then you see it’s tedious to deal with and can lead to a lot of inefficient trades from your opponent.

duplicate can single-handedly win you games. When you play this, you should be looking to force your opponent into trading one of your valuable creatures. In order to do this, you either want to leave your creature on an otherwise empty board (which will make them either ignore it or give you two copies of it) or against aggro you can try to duplicate a sludge-belcher which will be incredibly hard for them to overcome. Your opponents will usually have a hard time dealing with a single sylvanas-windrunner, let alone three of them.

mirror-entity is a great tool to gain tempo during the early parts of the game. If your opponent plays a creature, they are actually generating tempo for you, since you get to attack with it first. Against control decks, you can try to save it for the late-game when they’ll be looking to play their huge threats.

acolyte-of-pain is your primary draw engine: you want to try to get at least two cards out of them, which is easier to do as mage since you can activate their ability with your hero power. Against aggro, you want to abstain from using your hero power on them, instead try to draw cards by trading with their smaller creatures and gaining board control in the process.

harrison-jones is a card everyone should be running right now. Weapons classes are everywhere, and this card completely demolishes them. I’ve won games against handlocks who gave me 7 cards with their lord-jaraxxus, warriors who tried to get value out of a gorehowl, and countless paladins with their ashbringer mainly by playing this card. When you’re up against classes that don’t have any weapons, he’s not even that bad, providing a decent body at 5/4. If you don’t have him, throw in an acidic-swamp-ooze but know that it won’t be nearly as good.

antique-healbot helps turn around our match-ups against more aggressive decks that go for your face, giving you more time to get to the late-game. Two of these would sacrifice too much tempo for my liking, so we’re going to go with just one.

archmage-antonidas has become a lot better since GvG’s release. People are running lots of spare parts generators like mechanical-yeti, but even if we don’t run them ourselves, he remains a 7-drop that must be answered. If your opponents manage to respond, they’ll have less tools to deal with your other threats. If they don’t, you have a fireball generator that can aid you in clearing their board and finishing them off quickly. Basically, if and when your opponent runs out of answers for your threats, we want cards that can punish them severely for that, and this card can do that exceptionally well.

dr-boom is amazing, at 7 mana you get 9/9 worth of stats and the boom bots have great deathrattles as a nice bonus. They’re especially nice when you complement them with the mage’s hero power to finish off any minions they leave at 1 health.

The other cards in my deck are either staples in control-oriented decks, or their value has been proven before. Let’s get to your mulligan strategies!

Mulligan Strategy

Always Keep: frostbolt, mad-scientist, snowchugger.

Against Aggro, also keep: zombie-chow.

Against Control, also keep: unstable-portal, acolyte-of-pain.

Another thing I like to do is to keep harrison-jones against warriors, since you know he’s going to be one of the defining cards in the match-up.

Game Plan

You should always be looking to play threats on curve whilst dealing with your opponent’s threats efficiently. In the early game, you want to establish a solid board position by using your creatures as well as your hero power to remove all of their threats. Your ideal scenario is getting a mirror-entity from a mad-scientist, since that should net you enough tempo to move on to the mid-game. During the mid-game, your primary concern is maintaining board control: this is where water-elemental and sludge-belcher come in, complemented by a lot of removal in the form of frostbolt, fireball and polymorph. If you manage to get to the late-game, you’ll have access to your flamestrike to clear the board, as well as solid threats that your opponent will eventually run out of answers to. One of your advantages is that everyone else is trying out mech-based mage decks and will not know what to expect, often burning their removal too early on in the game.

Conclusion

This deck has been pretty solid for me so far, as well as a lot of fun. If you don’t feel like playing the more prevalent archetypes on the ladder, this deck is sure to surprise your opponents and net you lots of wins. So far, I’ve climbed to rank 4 with this deck at winrates of approximately 70% and plan to continue until I hit legend again this season. Now go out there and enjoy playing this deck as much as I have! It might not be easy at first, (at least it wasn’t for me) but it’s a really rewarding deck to play. Since this is my first article, I’d be very thankful if you left any constructive criticism or questions that you have in the comments below. Thank you for taking the time to read!