Happy Birthday to us!! And this has been a long road, ey? Countering the Flavor of the Week Series is here to stay! In case you are new here, or just haven’t read anything about these series before, CFWS is a series that focus, as the name implies, on teaching our readers how to properly counter a specific deck: By teaching how the deck functions, we then move on to explaining the deck’s strengths, weaknesses and how to counter them.
This week we are going to discuss a deck that is always there, even if sometimes we are not able to see the deck very much, it has never left Hearthstone: The Freeze Mage.
Freeze Mage spiked in popularity the past few weeks, mostly because it is a consistent deck and is good at what it does (meaning its favorable on a metagame so chaotic as this one), and its matchup is not so bad against Grim Patron as it is against Control Warrior.
Explaining the Deck
Much like Handlock, Freeze mage has always been around. Usually these kind of decks that have reached their maximum power do not need upgrades in order to work (or only need minor ones, like emperor-thaurissan), because they are already so consistent and have so many redundant tools that they are bound to work, regardless of metagame. Sometimes, such decks just go down a lot in popularity because the metagame stops being favorable to them: Stuff like a counter deck appears on the top charters can make it so decks like Handlock or Freeze Mage go down massively in popularity.
Freeze Mage was once something nearly undefeatable during the alpha stages of the game. The deck was so powerful that even after getting almost half of its cards nerfed, the deck is still extremely strong. In case you don’t know or don’t remember what it was, just remember every single freeze card used to cost 1 less:
Oh yeah, I even forgot to mention the 8 mana Pyroblast, the Overpowered pre-nerf nat-pagle, the 1/2 novice-engineer and even the 4 mana Leeroy as a 3rd Fireball.
Now, even if you can’t understand how powerful it was back then, just try to imagine that sometimes only nerfing a single card can destroy a whole deck, and this list I just posted happened to have 12 of its cards nerfed, and even after tons of expansions it is still one of the most powerful and consistent decks in the game.
Now, on to the “how it works” the deck is pretty straight forward: Stall the board as long as possible so the Freeze Mage can draw into a lot of burn spells, then burst the opponent down after the Freeze Mage drops its alexstrasza on its opponent’s face with an ice-block to back the Mage up or just burst him down without the “Alexs” if the Mage has the means to do so.
Because of the vast number of options the Freeze Mage is presented every turn that are not obvious, the difficult level of playing Freeze Mage is extremely high, one of the highest in the entire game. The deck requires a lot of training in order to be piloted optimally, and even then the “Freeze Mage Master” sometimes miss-play because of how different the situations present themselves daily.
What makes this deck so consistent is the absurd amount of card draw it has: The ability to draw a lot of cards usually make it so the deck -always- does what it is supposed to do.
The list I posted is the most updated list, which is a tournament version of the list, used to fight against Handlock (because burst damage, against Handlock, is a lot more important than constant damage, since they can antique-healbot/lord-jaraxxus themselves and heal up quickly). In case you are going to play this deck on the ladder, I recommend you using archmage-antonidas instead of malygos because consistent damage is a lot more important against most decks than pure burst, and Antonidas also works without Thaurissan, while Malygos doesn’t.
As for the mulligan, the Freeze Mage player usually looks for mad-scientist as well as every card with the word “Draw” written on it.
The Deck’s Strengths
The Freeze Mage’s strengths might seem obvious, but it is nice to take note of them. Whenever you want to beat a deck you must know how it operates, so you are able to counter it. And knowing the Strengths of the deck is important so whenever you have the opportunity to stop him from doing whatever he is good at, you will do it because you know you should. Freeze Mage’s strong points are:
- Interactions – Freeze Mage interacts very little with the board and runs a very limited number of minions, this means that removal-heavy decks like Priest suffer a lot from this, because these decks will usually stack a lot of removal in their hands without a target to use them.
- Consistency – As we talked before: The deck draws a lot! It also stalls a lot, giving the Freeze Mage even more time to draw more cards.
- Redundancy – The deck has a bunch of different cards that do the same thing: Draw, Stall and Burst. Redundancy is pretty important and is also part of the reason this deck is so consistent. Whenever you have a deck that has a lot of cards with the same function that is part of the deck’s objective, it becomes consistent.
- Unexpected – Outside of tournament scenes you usually don’t prepare yourself to play against a Freeze Mage deck, so normally the matchups are determined by countering and being countered, meaning a lot of auto-wins and auto-loses. So whenever the metagame is favored, the Freeze Mage will climb the ladder very quickly because the number of losses are going to be very low.
The Deck’s Weaknesses
Now that we know how the deck operates, and its strong points, it is time to understand Freeze Mage weak points. These weaknesses are:
- Limited Damage Pool – Freeze Mage has a limited Damage pool, but what does this means? It means the deck will only do a certain amount of damage, and if you are able to either heal or armor-up past that, you won the game, because the burst is the deck’s only win condition most of the times.
- Kezan Mystic – The Mystic became an important part of the Metagame in the past few months, mostly because of the Hunter/Mage dominance on the Ladder, usually the Freeze Mage will rely too much on its ice-block as its last protection, and the Freeze Mage never plays around Mystic, so having it steal that Ice Block in the last second is devastating.
- Speed – Despite being very consistent, Freeze Mage is also very slow, which means sometimes it gets bursted down before it has time to respond.
Because of these reasons, we start to build ourselves specific ideas of how we should counter Freeze Mage, these ideas are in the following section.
How to Fight it!
Because of the Weaknesses of Freeze Mage we can start thinking about ways of winning the game against Freeze Mage. Outside of “teching” kezan-mystic in our decks, there are other ways of fighting Freeze Mage. The most common way, and the one we are going to explore more, is within the concept of Deck Building:
- Warrior Control is extremely good against Freeze Mage because it stacks armor very quickly.
- Face Hunter is extremely good against Freeze Mage because it has the potential to burst down the Mage’s health a lot quicker than the Freeze Mage can respond. Face Hunter also has “burn” spells and hero power, which deals direct damage to the Mage’s face regardless of it stabilizing the board.
- Paladins that have both antique-healbot and Kezan Mystic in their core are decently favorable against Freeze Mage.
These are the most favorable decks against Freeze Mage, but there are other ways of having favorable matchup against the deck:
- Generally Teching Antique Healbot and Kezan Mystic will give you higher win percentages against both Hunter (any build) and Freeze Mage. Even Freeze Mage not being one of the most played decks, Hunter in general is, and having ways of countering a top-tier Class while countering other strong decks such as Freeze Mage is very important, because of this I recommend you teching in both Healbots and Mystics this week.
- For general aggressive decks, regardless of how oriented they are (Midrange or Weenie), they usually have in loatheb a strong Tech to add in against Freeze Mage and other Control-Midrange type of decks in General. It’s nice to remember that Loatheb can also help during the Hunter matchup as well, since it stops them from throwing burns at you for a turn, buying you time to win the game. The catch here, specifically in the Freeze Mage matchup, is playing Loatheb the turn you think the Freeze Mage is going to wipe your board with an AOE spell or the frost-nova+doomsayer combo.
- Talking about Doomsayers, another important thing for General aggressive decks is to run Silence effects, because then you will be able to stop the Freeze Mage from wiping your board, gaining you time. Keep in mind these silence effects also “unfreeze” your minions, which can make it so you are able to deal those last points of damage.
These are the most effective ways of dealing with Freeze Mage. In case you are going to play a tournament, do not forget to bring in either a Control Warrior or a Face Hunter build in order to counter possible Freeze Mage decks you might come to face.
This Week’s Meta Suggestions
Now, moving to the last part of this article we can find the decklists I think you should be playing this week.
This section is mostly meta oriented, and the decks posted here have no intention of directly countering the deck being spotlighted on this Article.
With that said, let us begin?
We start with my very own Paladin List. I entitled it “Draw-A-Din”, which is a Paladin deck focused on drawing a lot of cards while generating the same value it normally does.
On the playtests I did, I never had the trouble of having a solemn-vigil stuck in my hand, and blessing-of-kings gives us not only a third truesilver-champion to play with, it also gives us another way of generating value from acolyte-of-pain.
The reason I don’t run knife-jugglers in this deck is because I think the card is very weak for Paladins and its power does not justify a slot in today’s modern Paladin builds. I also happen to hate RNG, so thats a plus! Another point is that I didn’t feel I needed this card for a stronger early game, as it usually only seems to 1-for-1 early in the game against Aggro, and the Paladin’s Mid-game tools are pretty strong on their own.
I am planning on writing a guide about this deck very soon.
Moving forward we have a very interesting build to say the least. Our writer Brett Goudy wrote a very interesting guide about this build of his on our website, and the guide can be found here.
This deck has the potential to burst down other decks very quickly, and its surprise effect is also bound to catch a lot of players off-guard.
We then move on to another 2 persona builds of mine.
The first, is the Dragon Control Warrior list, updated and field-tested.
The list composes itself of all the standard Control Warrior early game defensive tools, but instead of having the Standard Legendary-Heavy late game, we instead add a pair of Legendary Dragons, ysera and nefarian, both which generate decent card advantage. In the mid-game, we trade our standard pair of Sludge Belchers for azure-drake, and our techs for blackwing-corruptor, which is a very powerful card in case you are running dragons (which is exactly the case), and senjin-shieldmasta. In case you are wondering how the mulligans should go, this is exactly like the standard Control Warrior build: Weapons, Armorsmiths, Taskmasters, Acolytes, and other specific cards depending on each matchup.
Then we move on to the second and last build for today: The Midrange Druid.
This list is optimal for fighting against both Hunters and grim-patron warrior builds, which are the 2 most played decks in today’s metagame. It consists of a Standard Combo Druid deck, but with only 1 combo, while dropping the other combo to gain more consistency in a pair of ancient-of-wars. These guys single-handedly can stop the whole Patron Deck from functioning, and its effect on today’s metagame should not be ignored.
A nice tip I could give for whoever wants to play this deck with double combo, is to replace both azure-drake and harrison-jones with the second force-of-nature and the second savage-roar.
This deck also trades shade-of-naxxramas for a pair of druid-of-the-flame, which are minions worse than Shades against Control and Midrange decks, but much better against Aggressive and Burn decks, which is the Hunter’s case. Before trying this deck with the Shades, I recommend playing some matches with the Druid and trying to see if it fits your playstyle more than the Shade, it sure did fit mine.
In case you’re wondering, the mulligans for this deck remains the same as Standard Druid, except that now you will always want to keep Druid of the Flame in your starting hand.
And this is it for today’s Countering the Flavor of the Week Series. Note that sometimes we have to focus ourselves on a different deck than the one being played the most on the ladder because we already wrote something about it before or about a very similar deck. We also thought that it would be nice to have something written about Freeze Mage, as it became somehow a strong deck in the past few weeks.
I hope you guys are satisfied with what we have been publishing so far in these series, and in case you aren’t, please let us know in the comments what you think we should be doing in the next CFWS articles we publish! We want to know everything that you’re thinking, so don’t keep any secrets from us, okey?
I should be working on the Paladin article now, keep an eye out for next week, as the article should be out somewhere around wednesday!
Love you guys, see yall soon!