After the nerf announcement made by the Hearthstone team, new decks will become meta after the patch hits. Aggressive decks are definitely going to take a hit. Late game oriented decks, like Control Mage, may dominate the upcoming meta.
Mage has had many different meta decks through the years, and most of them have been more control and late-game oriented. With the release of Kobolds and Catacombs, Mage gained new tools to control the late game—and even more elementals to gain life in the later stages of the match.
The current Control Mage deck centers around Frost Lich Jaina, multiple high mana cost spells, and Dragoncaller Alanna.
Dragoncaller Alanna gives Mage a whole new win condition in the late game—one that has not commonly been a tool for Mage to win. Mage decks of the past rely on spells to win the game, stacking up multiple high damage spells and releasing the damage on your opponent. The new expansion saw the release of Dragoncaller Alanna to give Mage to win in the late game with minions. Alanna fits well into this deck because of the amount of high cost spells you play.
Most Control Mage decks play around eight or nine spells that cost five or more mana, meaning you have the chance to spawn a lot of dragons. For every spell that costs five or more mana, Dragoncaller Alanna will summon a 5/5 Dragon with a maximum of six dragons due to board constraints. In certain match-ups you will want to hold onto Alanna until after your opponent has used most of their board clear thus giving you free reign to deal damage with the dragons. For instance when facing a Priest, you will want to wait until your opponent uses Shadow Reaper Anduin so that your dragons cannot be cleared instantly.
Arcane Tyrant is also an important card in this deck, because it gives you a free 4/4 elemental after playing one of your big spells. At first glance a five mana 4/4 is not a strong card, and is typically too much mana to spend for the given stats. But this minion’s card text allows it to be discounted to zero if you play a spell that costs five or more mana. As mentioned earlier, current Control Mage decks play a lot of five or more cost spells meaning there are many opportunities that let you play this card for no cost.
A popular combo for this card is to play it after using Firelands Portal. Firelands Portal will spawn you a random five cost minion—and on top of that you can play Arcane Tyrant, giving you two minions for the price of one. Arcane Tyrant also has the advantage of being a elemental, meaning once you play Frost Lich Jaina this card will give you Lifesteal which is important to staying at a high health total in the late game.
After the release of Knights of the Frozen Throne, each class got a Death Knight card that changes their hero power and gives them a strong boost in power. Mage is no different as its Death Knight card, Frost Lich Jaina, allows elementals to help you survive with Lifesteal.
The early to mid game is about keeping yourself alive and clearing the board as to prevent your opponent from piling up minions. Your strategy changes once you play Frost Lich Jaina. Your hero power gets an upgrade—if the one damage kills a minion, you now summon a 3/6 Water Elemental. That new Water Elemental also has Lifesteal and can keep you topped up on health points while damaging your opponent.
The number one goal after playing Frost Lich Jaina is to make a Water Elemental each turn. In order to do so, you may have to do some strategic thinking since your opponent may be hesitant to play their own minions into your Frost Lich Jaina. No matter, this is why you have your own minions so you can sacrifice them and turn them into Water Elementals. Every trade you make, every spell you cast, every minion you play must all be done with the purpose of leading yourself to creating another Water Elemental with your hero power.
As with every control deck, this deck takes patience as it requires you to wait until the late game to do significant damage to your opponent and build up a board full of minions. This is why your deck should feature a lot of board clear—to keep your opponent from damaging your face. You must use your spells wisely before that point in order to get the most value from your board clears. All the hard work you do in the early game will pay off in the late game, because of how cards like Dragoncaller Alanna and Arcance Tyrant combo with your high mana cost spells.
The theme of the game for you is board clear, however each section of the game will have additional goals and play styles for you to master. Early game is also about card draw and getting your tools for success. Cards like Acolyte of Pain and Raven Familiar do well in that department, getting you the big cards you need to win.
The mid game is about setting yourself up to conquer the late game. Medivh, the Guardian allows for stronger board swings because of Atiesh, which spawns you a minion with the same cost as the spell you played. Alexstraza is included in the deck as a get out of jail free card. If you suffer a lot of damage, this dragon can give you another lease on life as it brings you back to 15 health. Another tool to keep you alive is Arcane Artificer, which gives armor equal to the mana cost of the spells you cast.
In the late game, get your Frost Lich Jaina out of your hand and stack up the Water Elementals. With your army of Water Elementals, or Dragons, it’s time to beat down your opponent. Shift from focusing mostly on spells to focusing on the minions you have on board. Whether it be the Water Elementals you spawn from your hero power, or the dragons spawned by Dragoncaller Alanna, you want to gain the board advantage.