Beginner Hearthstone Deck Tech: Basic Mage

Sheng is back with a basic tech guide for the Mage class in Hearthstone! New to the game or have friends just starting out? Highly recommended!

Editor’s Note: You can find this deck guide updated over at our partner site – Disguised Toast.

If you’re looking to expand your collection, highly recommend going for the Classic set and Whispers of the Old Gods (Standard Format). And here are budget guides, also from Sheng, to get you started!

Introduction

Greetings, I’m Sheng, a Legend rank constructed and 7.5 win-average arena player. I run HearthstoneCoaching.com where our coaches have helped many students achieve the same.

Today, I’m here with another Basic Hearthstone Deck Tech. This deck is completely crafted from the cards you unlock at Level 10 for Mage, and requires 0 dust to make!

Personally, I consider Mage to be the strongest Basic class. Its combination of burn spells, unconditional removal, and efficient minions makes it an extremely fun and versatile class to play. This is also the class I’d recommend most beginners start with, as Mage’s Basic cards are simple to understand and play.

In this guide I’ll be discussing why I’ve chosen each of the cards to include in this deck, along with a gameplay guide, upgrade section, and accompanying videos for each matchup. Yup, I made a video of this deck playing against 9 other Expert decks. That’s one for each class! I’d recommend new players to read through this guide first, and then check out the video section for specific matchups. Feel free to pause the video on each turn to think about what you would do in each situation, before continuing, you may learn a few more things this way!

The Deck

Strategically, Basic mage is a midrange deck that focuses heavily on controlling the board through efficient minion trading and removal spells. There are many ways to bring your opponent’s life down to 0 through cards like fireball and frostbolt. So, without further ado, let’s take a good look at the deck.

Minions – 18

2x acidic-swamp-ooze

  • 2 mana for a 3/2 body is great. When played on turn two, the Ooze has the capability of trading with most 3 mana minions.
  • A battlecry that destroys enemy weapons is outrageous. Playing this at the right time against a class with weapons can single-handedly swing games in your favor.

2x bloodfen-raptor

  • An Ooze without the battlecry. We include him for the potential to trade with 3 mana minions.
  • I spent time testing cards like haunted-creeper and river-crocolisk at this slot, but I found the 3 attack is especially useful later in the game, when it has the potential for killing 3 health minions.

2x ironfur-grizzly

  • 3 mana for 3/3 is fair, and the taunt will sometimes protect your weaker injured minions.
  • Initially, this card was replaced by maexxna and gurubashi-berserker. What I found was that I was often forced to play shattered-sun-cleric on turn 3 without utilizing its battlecry when my opponent eliminated my 2 mana minions, and I needed something else to play at this slot.
  • Additionally, both maexxna and gurubashi-berserker were slow to develop, so I’d often play a 4 drop even when I had them in hand.

2x shattered-sun-cleric

  • 3 mana for 3/2 isn’t mana efficient, but the battlecry more than makes up for it. The downside is that if you don’t have a minion on the board, this card suffers.
  • The ideal scenario is to play this on the same turn a minion you control can trade with something equal in value and survive, or can trade up to kill something more expensive.

2x chillwind-yeti

  • A plain 4 mana for a 4/5. Even without a battlecry, the Yeti is considered to be the best neutral Basic at 4 mana.
  • With 5 health, this minion will often force your opponent to trade two of his cards to get rid of him.

2x gnomish-inventor

  • 4 mana for 2/4 isn’t great statswise, but a 2/4 isn’t awful.
  • Primarily we want to play her for her battlecry that draws a card later in the game when we’re low on cards. By playing her late, she gives you the potential to play her and whatever she draws on the same turn.

2x senjin-shieldmasta

  • 4 mana for 3/5 is fair value, but it’s the taunt along with the 5 health that makes this minion key against aggro decks.

2x water-elemental

  • water-elemental is arguably better than the chillwind-yeti. This minion has 3 attack with a 6 health body AND freezes whatever it touches.
  • He’s especially potent against classes with weapons. With board control, your opponent will never be able to use his weapon.

2x boulderfist-ogre

  • The ogre is a plain 6 mana for 6/7, but that’s why we love him. He’s not subject to silence and cards like the-black-knight or big-game-hunter, and will kill other 6/6 minions without dying.
  • Avoid buffing him to 7 attack unless you absolutely need to. You want to keep him out of big-game-hunter range.
  • The ogre along with your burn spells will often be what you’ll end up finishing games with.

Spells – 12

2x arcane-missiles

  • A mad-bomber‘s battlecry that doesn’t target your own minions! How nice. It can often combo with your hero power to be more effective.
  • Understanding probability is the most important aspect of playing this card. If your opponent only has one minion on the board, then probability of hitting it at least once is 87.5%, twice is 50%, and thrice is 12.5%.
  • Avoid playing arcane-missiles unnecessarily if you can. Play it when the odds are in your favor.

2x frostbolt

  • 2 mana for 3 damage and freeze is great. It can be used in conjunction with your hero power to take out 4 health minions, or to kill your opponent.

2x arcane-intellect

  • 3 mana to draw 2 cards is fair, but this isn’t a card we want in our opening hand. Playing arcane-intellect on turn 3 is weak because it doesn’t affect the board.
  • This card becomes a life saver later in the game when it can draw into answers when we’ve run out of cards.

2x fireball

  • It’ll take out anything with 6 health for 4 mana. One of the best Mage cards in the game.

2x polymorph

  • The oh-so-important unconditional removal. Because this turns your enemy minions into sheep, it plays around deathrattles (think cairne-bloodhoof and sylvanas-windrunner, something that will be increasingly important with more Naxxramas cards being released.

2x flamestrike

  • The scariest Mage spell that every opponent needs to be wary of. If you’re behind, he’ll clear the board to bring you back in the game. It’s up to your opponent to play around this by not overcommitting and putting too many low health minions on the board before turn 7.
  • If you’re ahead, this is the spell that will seal your opponent’s death.

Mulligan Guide

I think the aspect of the game most beginners get wrong the most is knowing how to mulligan properly. This is something that can be discussed in length in its own separate guide (yes, it’s that nuanced), so I’ll just give very general advice here that’s specific to this particular deck.

Going First

  • Ideally your opening hand is a 2, 3, and 4 mana minion or removal spell so you can do something on each turn.
  • 1 Mana: arcane-missiles, if I suspect that I’m playing against an aggressive deck or Zoolock.
  • 2 Mana: bloodfen-raptor, acidic-swamp-ooze, frostbolt
  • 3 Mana: ironfur-grizzly, shattered-sun-cleric (if you have a 2 mana minion)

    • Note that I’ll never keep two shattered-sun-cleric in the same hand, because having two and no other minions means you’ll have to play one without utilizing its battlecry.
  • 4 Mana: chillwind-yeti, water-elemental, senjin-shieldmasta, fireball (I’ll generally keep fireball in my opening hand against druid to protect myself from early innervate shenanigans where they get a druid-of-the-claw or chillwind-yeti early.)
  • Cards to Throw Away:

    • Cards that draw you another card: gnomish-inventor, arcane-intellect. You want to dump these cards from your opening hand, because they’re weak to play in the early game. By playing arcane-intellect, you’re basically passing your turn. While the card draw is nice, this is a mechanic you want to utilize late in the game when you run out of cards. gnomish-inventor is better early than arcane-intellect, but again, has weak stats for a 4 mana minion.
    • Cards that cost way too much for you to play early: boulderfist-ogre, flamestrike. Sometimes in arena, I’ll keep flamestrike from my opening hand when I know I only have a single board clear spell in my deck, but because this deck has two, the probability that we’ll draw into one later in the game when we can cast it is much higher. You’ll want to throw away cards that are higher than 4 mana cost because they’ll be “dead” in your hand until much later in the game. Early on, putting pressure on your opponent by putting minions on the board is the most crucial thing.

Going Second

  • You’ll want to keep everything you would going first, but with the-coin, you can subtract 1 mana from the casting cost of one of your cards, as the coin will smooth out your mana curve.
  • As a side note, one of my favorite things to do on turn 3 is to coin out a water-elemental or chillwind-yeti followed by another 4 mana minion on turn 4. It’s very difficult for your opponent to deal with this type of situation.

How to Play

This deck is simple to play, but extremely effective. I took a modified version of this deck to Rank 11 a few seasons ago, and was able to beat decks containing multiple legendaries. My most memorable experience was beating a full control Warrior with 5 legendaries. I ended up winning with 1 life left, after dealing with 4 of them. While this isn’t what I’d consider a normal outcome, the Mage class has a lot of potential, and offers many fruitful upgrade paths for decks that can take you to Legend.

The general strategy of this deck is to control the board as much as possible. Mage has a distinct advantage over most other classes because of her Fireblast Hero Power. Unlike Druid and Rogue, there’s nothing preventing you from doing direct damage, and you’ll never take damage as a result of using your character to attack a minion.

Mulligan aggressively for a strong opening hand of 2 and 3 mana minions. Going second, you can keep two 4 mana minions, as the goal is to play one 4 mana minion on turn 3. Once you’ve developed your board, utilize your cheap and efficient removal spells like arcane-missiles, frostbolt, and fireball to control the board. Never use any of these spells to directly attack your opponent’s face unless you can kill him on the very same turn. Be sure to remember that you can do 1 more damage to finish off a minion with these spells using your hero power.

A good note to remember about frostbolt is that the card will freeze your opponent’s minion. If you only have 3 mana, and you can bring your opponent’s minion down to 1 health, it’ll be frozen for a turn, allowing you to kill it next turn (granted that it doesn’t get buffed or healed).

Again, as I’ve described earlier, avoid playing arcane-missiles unnecessarily if you can. Play it when the odds are in your favor.

If you’re behind, flamestrike can often rescue you, and flip the game around. Make sure to bring your 5 health minions down to 4 health if you can before turn 7 to get full value out of the spell. Your primary game finishers are going to be boulderfist-ogre and fireball. Be sure to always count your damage both from your minions on the board and in your hand. arcane-missiles count as 3 damage for 1 mana if your opponent has no minions. You may be surprised, but it’s very possible to bring your opponent down from 15 health to 0 in one turn with this deck.

So, to summarize all of this in three bullet points:

  • Control the board.
  • Finish your opponent by burning his face off.
  • Don’t forget to emote “Well Played” after fireballing to finish a game.

Gameplay Videos

To solidify these strategies, I’ve done something different for this guide. For the first time I’m including gameplay videos to demonstrate how this deck should be played. In the interest of time, I didn’t commentate them (as I wanted to be able to cover all 9 class matchups), but feel free to ask me questions in the comments sections about specifics and I will be happy to answer them. I only lost one of these games, and in a bit of a spectacular fashion. You’ll have to find out which one it is!


Versus Druid


Versus Hunter


Versus Mage


Versus Paladin


Versus Priest


Versus Rogue


Versus Shaman


Versus Warlock


Versus Warrior

Combos

This section isn’t the easiest to enumerate, as the possible ways to burn down your opponent with this deck are so diverse. Just keep in mind that when you do your combos, try to maximize the value out of your burn spells. If it’ll cost you 5 mana to frostbolt and hero power a 4 health minion, favor doing that over using your fireball, which has the potential for doing more damage later on.

How to Upgrade Your Deck

Over time, you’ll collect more and more cards from opening Hearthstone packs. Please follow the guide below before reading the upgrade card list to understand how to incorporate new cards successfully into your deck.

Which Cards Should I Upgrade?

  • Before you start, go through your deck and look at each card and understand its role and function.
  • The easiest cards to upgrade are minions that have counterparts that are complete upgrades. I define a complete upgrade as a card with the same or better stat distribution and a better ability for the same mana cost. A knife-juggler would be a complete upgrade over a bloodfen-raptor. A spider-tank would not be.
  • Replace situational minions or spells that will often stay glued in your hand until the right moment arises with more verstile minions or spells. You can easily replace kobold-geomancer and gnomish-inventor in your deck with azure-drake instead. While azure-drake isn’t a complete upgrade over either card, the fact that it has a better stat distribution, draws a card, and gives you spell-power makes it a card that isn’t situational.
  • After making a list of cards that are potentially upgradeable from the list above, you can move on to the next section!

How Do I Actually Upgrade My Deck?

  • Don’t rush the process! Deckbuilding takes time. Each and every card in this Basic deck was chosen for a purpose, and fills an important function in this deck. You would be surprised how much time it took me to think of each of these decks, and how long the process of tuning them took.
  • Generally, you don’t want to make more than one or two changes to your deck at a time. Swap out cards one or two at a time, and play your deck with the changes. Each time you draw into your “upgraded” card, ask yourself whether or not you wish it was the card you had previously in your deck. If you consistently say yes to this question over several games, then the “upgraded” card belongs.
  • Repeat the testing process with more upgrades until you’re fully satisfied you have the best deck you can make with the cards you have.

Respect Your Mana Curve!

  • While it’s tempting to throw a bunch of late game minions into your deck, it’s a bad idea because you’ll find that without an early game, you’ll never get to late game before your opponent kills you. You want to be able to play on curve, and not have to skip a turn without having something to play.
  • While this isn’t a golden rule for all decks, this is what a general mana curve should look like for a midrange deck. Please keep this in mind as you swap in your shiny new cards.

    • 0-2 One Mana Minions
    • 4-6 Two Mana Minions
    • 4-5 Three Mana Minions
    • 4-6 Four Mana Minions
    • 2-4 Five Mana Minions
    • 2-4 Six+ Mana Minions

Potential Upgrades List — November 2015

Here are a few simple substitutions that will make this budget deck even stronger.

Spells

  • 2x polymorph ? 2x mirror-entity
  • 1x flamestrike ? 1x unstable-portal

Minions

  • 2x bloodfen-raptor ? 2x mana-wyrm
  • 2x acidic-swamp-ooze ? 2x sorcerers-apprentice
  • 2x ironfur-grizzly ? 2x mad-scientist
  • 2x shattered-sun-cleric ? 2x flamewaker
  • 2x chillwind-yeti ? 2x piloted-shredder
  • 2x gnomish-inventor ? 2x azure-drake
  • 2x boulderfist-ogre ? 1x dr-boom + 1x archmage-antonidas

Paths to Legend

If you want to take Mage to Legend, I’d recommend new players to look at Tide’s Budget/Welfare Mage. It costs about 1000 dust to craft and includes many neutral cards that are useful for many other decks. You can find it here: http://www.hearthpwn.com/decks/61713-tides-budget-mage

Playing this deck, you’ll probably start hitting resistance around Rank 5, at which point you may want to switch to a more consistent Freeze Mage deck to reach legendary: https://hearthstoneplayers.com/chill-freeze-mage-deck-guide/

Conclusion

Overall, this deck is a blast to play, and quite effective. While it won’t realistically take you past Rank 10, it’s something you can build today, and develop over time with the Expert cards you’ll open in packs. For a deeper look into other advanced decks you can use to climb the ladder, I’d recommend checking out our site’s excellent Mage section.

I’m also going to let you guys choose the next guide I work on! You can vote on a class here: http://strawpoll.me/2215541

If you liked this guide, feel free to give it an upvote on Reddit and on here, so more people can see it. As always, questions, comments, and constructive criticism are all welcome. I’ll be happy to answer your questions as best as I can.

Editor’s Note: Be sure to check out the New Players section, other Beginner Decks, and our most popular section – Monthly Top Meta Decks.

Coaching Lessons

If you’re interested in reaching Legend rank, or earning unlimited gold from arena, my team at HearthstoneCoaching.com would love to help! We’ve provided over a thousand hours of excellent coaching to students around the world. 

Want to Become Better at Other Games?

I also run RankOneCoaching.com, where our top coaches will develop a personal plan for you to achieve your dreams in other games. Personal lessons are an in-depth experience and most students improve significantly after just one full session!