In-Depth Match-up Analysis: Midrange Paladin vs Freeze Mage (Part One)

Hi guys welcome to In-Depth Match-up Analysis: Midrange Paladin vs Freeze Mage. In this two part series I am going to examine this match-up in considerable detail; Part One studies things from the Paladin’s perspective, and Part Two shall look at the Match-up from the perspective of Freeze Mage. If you want to fully understand […]

Introduction

Hi guys welcome to In-Depth Match-up Analysis: Midrange Paladin vs Freeze Mage. In this two part series I am going to examine this match-up in considerable detail; Part One studies things from the Paladin’s perspective, and Part Two shall look at the Match-up from the perspective of Freeze Mage.

If you want to fully understand the match-up you need to read both parts, to quote Sun Tzu:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

While the focus is on one specific match-up obviously there will be things spoil over to other decks/match-ups.

About this Article

Some of you maybe wondering; “What has motivated you to write this article, Smashthings ?” This is probably the most important question we need to address before moving on.

Indeed, the subject matter is so specific that even if you play 100 games of midrange Paladin this massive article may only influence the a handful of games. Whereas a subject less specific could impart on you knowledge that you could use every other game. Okay, so let’s start answering the question.

I wrote this guide primarily for two reasons. The first reason is that I have never seen any other published article that has attempted to study a match-up in this much depth; deck guides will typically devote one or two paragraphs (at most). In other words, a detailed article such as this gives me the chance to write something novel and traverse untested waters; maybe, just maybe I have stumbled upon something the Hearthstone never knew it so desperately needed. 🙂

The second reason? Well, I hope that some of you are aware of my ‘Match-up Theory’ series of articles (see reference section for links). As of typing two have been published but I plan to write a few more. In those articles my aim was to try and provide a set of tools and methods that you could apply to any match-up you desire to understand. When writing theory articles I find that it is good practice to offer practical examples, since examples can make even the most complex or abstruse concepts much easier to grasp. And this brings to the second reason I wrote this article; I thought that having a detailed, fully-fleshed out example which one can refer to will make some of those aforementioned theory articles that much easier to understand.

In short, I hope that this article makes my theory articles easier to understand and provide the Hearthstone community with something new and valuable; We shall soon see how far I fall from those rather lofty aims.

🙁 🙂

Paladin Deck List

The Paladin list we shall be looking today is Xzirez’s list that he has used to climb into Legend top 10.

[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

Mage Deck List

The Mage list we shall be looking at today is Camzee’s (a link to his guide on the deck can be found in the references section).

[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

…Deck list’s change…

Okay so I thought I would add in a little reminder that while these lists are up-date (as of typing this sentence) innovation in Hearthstone is constant thus lists constantly change: Sometimes it is minor tweaks to fit the meta better and then at other times the deck changes considerably due to new cards and/or ideas. And then there are decks that seem to have a number genuinely good lists (e.g. I have seen several different versions of Grim Patron Warrior).  My point is that the lists people use are constantly changing and so therefore articles such as this one can become out of date extremely quickly.

But with that said, theoretical understanding has a ‘timeless’ quality, and so therefore I hope that when you read this article you do your best to understand the tools, methods, and theory that this article exemplifies rather than considering it some sort of ‘cheat-sheet’ to be rote-learned.

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Enlighten him even further and he will open up a chain of seafood restaurants.”     

If you do take the time to seek understanding then there is a very good chance that when you compare the deck lists (new against old) and see the chances you will be confident in your abilities to ascertain how these changes affect the match-up. And that, my friends, is a very valuable skill that will keep well-fed throughout your Hearthstone career.

Alright. We are now ready to begin….

The Paladin’s Strategies

If you want to know how Paladin works then go read any competently written Midrange Paladin guide. What we will be looking at is some of the idea’s and strategies Paladin use in this particular match-up and against the Mage class in general.

Notice that I mentioned the ‘Mage class in general’ above. This is because when you are fighting a Mage on Ladder you don’t know it is ‘Freeze Mage’ until you know its ‘Freeze Mage’. Any competent match-up guide must reference this uncertainty. For example, ‘Handlock’ and ‘Zoo’ gain additional bonus points to their ladder win-rates simply owing the fact that the opposing deck must Mulligan very differently to combat each one. And so therefore any competently written ‘How to beat Handlock’ article will obviously recommend that you keep Big Game Hunter in the starting hand but will recognise the difficulty in doing so (the card is bad vs Zoo).

This idea will become a little clearer later on, I promise.

Anyway, let’s move on. How can we find out what Paladin should be doing in this match-up?  Somewhat surprisingly, we can find the awnser to the puzzle by consulting Freeze Mage guides. Let’s read something Fitzy14HS wrote (square brackets [] = my notes):

“…Paladin can be a grind because of the heal they have, combined with the constant threat of Quartermaster, […] if they get a big Quartermaster and you have no AoE, you lose on the spot. However, Paladin is specifically very weak against Antonidas. If you are able to play him and Frost Nova on the same turn, you [force your opponent to have] Equality + Consecration [in hand, which is not that likely since] many of the Paladin players are only running 1 Equality.”

This excerpt is taken from a guide advising Freeze Mage on how to beat Paladin. In this short paragraph there are two little nuggets of gold to find;

  1. That Muster for Battle + Quartermaster is something to both be feared and respected.
  2. Frost Nova + Archmage Antonidas is a powerful combo that we as Paladin players must defend against.

These two short sentences are telling a lot about how the match-up might be played; The Freeze Mage will try to keep AoE in hand because once they use it Quartermaster becomes a huge threat.  And similarly, the Paladin needs to keep equality in hand to deal with the Mage’s Turn Ten Frost Nova + Antonidas play.

Using this information we can predict how the the turns leading up to these combos may pan out. For example, it is reasonable to think that both players are going to try and ‘bait’ out the key spells; The Paladin wants to see the Mage use Flamestrike before he/she drops the Quartermaster, and the Mage wants to see Equality used before he/she drops Antonidas.

Let’s now take a look at something Camzeee wrote in his Freeze Mage guide (in spoiler):

[spoiler]

Paladin

* Midrange, Dragon Control

* Very Favorable

* Mulligan for: Mad Scientist, Arcane Intellect, Explosive Sheep

This match-up is great for Freeze Mage. Not only does Paladin have a slower early game than some, it has a tough time removing Doomsayer which means full board clears are quite common. Their cards are also weak to mass AoE damage like Blizzard and they have little burst to pressure your life total meaningfully. Develop a board, draw cards and try to clear theirs with Doomsayer – it’ll work on Paladin more often than just about any other class. If you reach the late-game with a pretty decent life total and Ice Block setup you have all but won after Alexstrasza.

Be wary of the big heals Paladin is capable of. Lay on Hands and Antique Healbot can heal them all the way back up to full health but in doing so, they likely can’t pop your Ice Block, giving you time to draw more burst or generate it through Antonidas.

The most likely way that you lose is if they can spiral a board out of your control. Explosive Sheep is key in this match-up to deal with the Knife Juggler and Muster for Battle plays that can give them dangerous tempo and pressure your life total. [/spoiler]

 

In this short excerpt Camzee is telling fellow Freeze Mage players how to beat us Paladins. But in so doing he can’t help but offer information that is useful to the Paladin as well. For example:

  1. We can see from the Mulligan advice that Freeze Mage intends to keep Mad Scientist; When Playing as Paladin can use this information to inform our own early turns & Mulligans.
  2. That Healing (post Alexstrasza) is not sufficient to win. As Paladin we must try to heal AND trigger Iceblock, otherwise the Mage just gets more turns to find more damage.
  3. The Paladin win condition is to amass a powerful board presence.
  4. The Mage likes to use Explosive sheep to defend against Muster for Battle.
  5. That the match-up is unfavourable. Therefore we should play accordingly (e.g take more risks).

Notice also that from these basic points we can extrapolate new ones as well. For example, our Win Condition is board control, with thus means it is tempting to try and establish a board early with Knife Juggler. In which case, Freeze Mage is more that happy to play Mad Scientist and threaten a 1-for-1 trade. Such a trade would be highly favourable for Freeze Mage since it both gains value (due to the development of a Secret) and denies the Paladin’s win condition.  This being the case then, it seems like we should only play Knife Juggler on Turn Two if we have a way to prevent the trade. If not, Shielded Minibot is probably the better two-drop.

When looking at Fitzy14HS’s article I said that as a Paladin we probably want to try and bait out the AoE so that Quartermaster can do some damage. But the fifth point above claims the match-up is unfavourable. And in unfavourable match-ups I usually recommend high-risk plays. Ergo, instead of diligently playing around a bunch of Mage cards maybe it is better to just slam the Quartermaster down and just hope they don’t have the required card(s) to punish us; maybe this is the exact sort of risk we need to take in order to steal a win.

Alright, so I think there are two more basic tips I want to give you before we start the ‘analysis proper’:

  1. Be mindful of minion placement; while Cone of Cold is not that common at the moment it does occasionally find its way into some deck lists (e.g Hyped’s Blizcon deck). The easiest way to play around the card is simply to put your biggest threats on the wings/flanks of the board.
  2. Be mindful of the 7 minion rule.  Yes, your win condition is flooding the board but if you max out on the minion count and the Mage simply Freezes the board (e.g. Frost Nova) then you maybe forced to simply pass the turn. And it would be a terrible shame to pass the turn instead of dropping valuable minions such as Loatheb or Antique Healbot.  In this match-up reckless spamming of your Hero Power can easily get you killed.

Card Roles

In this section I am going to go through every card in the deck and explain its role. I will try to give you specific tips regarding the use of that particular card as well as highlight some of the more theoretical aspects: I aim to teach not just ‘how’ to use the card, but also give you an insight as to ‘why’.

Take care to note that this is not a Paladin deck guide, all I am going to do is point out how each card works in this particular match-up.

Lastly, I would recommend that you read about all the cards in order. This is because of the way I have written this section of the guide (e.g when discussing a 5 mana card I may refer back to something I said about a 3 mana card).

Cards are ordered by mana cost (lowest-to-highest).

[spoiler title=”Zombie Chow”]

Zombie Chow is an interesting card to have in your deck versus the Mage class. Before we analyse this cards role in the Freeze Mage match-up we must first outline the proper context.

In parts One and Two (especially Part Two) of my Match-up Theory series I detail that every match starts with a ‘recognition’ phase. Unless you are playing in a tournament format, the first time that it is possible to ‘recognise’ a match-up is the Mulligan. But unfortunately since Mage has a number of archetypes at the moment it is not easy to determine the match-up simply by looking at the number of cards the Mage decided to Mulligan.

Therefore, in the majority of cases you will probably only realize that you are playing against Freeze Mage somewhere between turns One-to-Three.

Another important piece of context to give you is the Zombie Chow is a key component in dealing with some of the other Mage archetypes (e.g. Tempo Mage, Aggro Mage, Mech Mage). This context is incredibly important to understand: even if we hypothetically suppose that Zombie chow is completely rubbish against Freeze Mage the practical reality is that in most games this card will be in our starting hand because we need it to combat the other Mage archetypes (e.g. its 2/3 body makes it good for trades against these classes and latter on this card is brilliant for popping Mirror Entity).

In short, we should expect to have Zombie Chow in our starting hand regardless of how good/bad it is in the Match-up.

And as it turns out, this card performs rather badly against Freeze Mage: on later turns the Deathrattle on the card makes it virtually unplayable (remember, we are the ‘beatdown player’ and most constantly find ways to pressure the Mage) and moreover, since Freeze Mage plays few minions the sad fact is that Zombie chow never really gets a chance to shine (the card is best used for trading).

In the most optimal case you play this on Turn One and trade with the turn Two Mad Scientist. The ability to trade with Scientist is really rather useful since it means that you can protect you more powerful minions (such as your Turn Two Knife Juggler). But beyond this point in the game the card will start to become a liability; for example, what if the Mage follows up with an Acolyte of Pain on Turn Three? If you cannot kill the Acolyte cleanly then Zombie Chow just ‘feeds’ the Mage a card.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

If your starting hand has a Shielded Minibot I would recommend throwing back the Zombie Chow (since the divine shield will enable a favourable trade with Mad Scientist). But if on the other hand your Two-drop is Knife Juggler I would recommend keeping the Chow since it can protect Mr. Juggles.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Keep the card: It is a great body for trading and is an excellent counter to a Mirror Entity. (Please refer to Match-up Theory Part One, ‘Pyhrric plays’) 

In conclusion, this is a lacklustre card in the match-up and getting value out of it is difficult. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Equality”]

So long as you have the right cast of supporting cards Equality is a fairly useful card in this match-up. The key uses are (listed in order of importance):

  1. Countering a Doomsayer
  2. Countering Emperor Thaurissan and/or Archmage Antonidas
  3. Countering Alexstrasza

Let us unpack this list a little bit.

(1) Doomsayer

At seven health, Doomsayers often take quite a bit of work to kill, and kill them you must!  Not only does an uncountered Doomsayer kill whatever is on board it can also completely sap your tempo (i.e. since you don’t want to play minions into a Doomsayer sometimes your best play will be to just pass the turn). Worse still, if the Mage is lucky enough to get an entire board wipe then the Mage gains the initiative as well.

Let me be crystal clear about one thing; allowing the Freeze Mage to gain the initiative is often disastrous, and this is especially true for Paladin. For example:

  • TURN FIVE (MAGE): Frost Nova + Doomsayer
  • TURN FIVE (PALADIN): Pass
  • TURN SIX (MAGE): Emperor Thaurissan

The Paladin unfortunately lacks a way to deal with a 5 healths minion without the help of his board (the usual trick is Truesilver Champion + 1/1 token). Thus when the Emperor hits the board you may struggle to deal with that card. And that’s a huge problem; If Freeze Mage gets two triggers of Thaurissan’s ability you might as well just hit the concede button.

Let’s look at the following position (assume that there are a few other ‘meaningless’ cards in your hand as well):

In this position it is probably correct to play the Sludge Belcher! I know, I know, Truesilver champion looks really tempting but the reality of situation is that you have absolutely no way to deal an Emperor Thaurissan follow up (unless you top-deck something like a consecration). Whereas, if you play Sludge Belcher you get the 1/2 after Doomsayer resolves and you can use that minion plus the Truesilver Champion to trade.

Note that I said that it is “probably correct” to play Sludge Belcher here. The problem with such situations is that you have to weigh the benefits of taking a risk (i.e Playing the Truesliver and hoping they do not have Thaurissan, or if they do hope to top deck one damage next turn) versus the merits of making a ‘safe play’.

But anyway, I’m getting side tracked: I’m supposed to be talking about the role of Equality, not going off on a tangent about the danger of giving the Mage initiative.  Nonetheless, I have included this discussion because you need to be aware of how dangerous a Doomsayer can be and how imperative it is to counter one.  The beginner only thinks of losing the board, whereas the Pro understands that this is only the tip of the Ice berg: A Freeze Mage with license to do whatever it wants on its turn is an absolutely terrifying prospect.

Casting equality drops the Doomsayer to one health, but this is not enough: we also need that one damage. And crucially since Doomsayer is typically saved for Frost Nova combo’s that one damage cannot come from the board. In order for Equality to be useful you need some other card(s) to combo with it. This could be Muster for Battle, Consecration and so on.

In short, Doomsayer is an incredibly powerful card and if you are to stand a chance of winning you must counter it; Equality represents one of your best chances of dealing with it.

(2) Emperor Thaurissan and Archmage Antonadas

As I elude to above, getting one proc from a Thaurissan is dangerous but two or more proc’s is just game winning. If the Mage plays it into a board full of stuff then preventing the second proc is easy because you trade with minions. However, if the Mage somehow manages to get Thuarissan onto an empty board the number of ways the Paladin has to deal with it are extremely limited (i.e: option (a) Ironbeak Owl,  (b) Truesilver Champion + Consecration, (c) Equality + Weapon/Consecration/lucky Knife Juggles).

Archmage Antonadas is a similar deal: you simply cannot win the game if it lives multiple turns. If it is played onto a Paladin controlled board (and nothing is Frozen) dealing with it is not usually an issue, but, just like the emperor, you can encounter problems if it enters onto an empty board. That is unless you have Equality + supporting cast of cards in hand.

In short, If you feel that the Freeze Mage maybe able to clear the board then you will need to use the Equality to defend against Archmage or Emperor.

(3) Alexstrasza

The problem with countering Alexstrasza with Equality is that your mana is very limited on this turn since you need to counter the impending burn (remember that Freeze Mage is likely to have the damage in hand to win next turn; they simply don’t need Alexstrasza to hit you) AND trigger their Ice Block.  Moreover, at this point in the game you cannot just counter it with equality + weapon hit because every point of health matters. Thus, if you cannot use a weapon then that means you either need your board and/or a spell to deal with it. And that obviously leaves even less resources available to you on this turn to achieve all your other objectives.

In my opinion it is generally preferable to counter Alexstrasza the turn before it played (e.g. Turn Eight Sludge Belcher) as opposed to trying to react to its presence with cards like Aldor Peacekeeper, Big Game hunter, Equality etc.

In short, there are numerous ways to deal with Alexstrasza (a pre-emptive taunt, for example) and thus you do not need to specifically save Equality for it.

Mulligan:

As a general rule of thumb I would not consider keeping Equality in the starting hand owing to the fact that in most games it is simply better to try and curve out with good minions. Moreover, it isn’t an obvious Mulligan keep against the other archetypes either. Only consider keeping if your hand is otherwise excellent[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Ironbeak Owl”]

Ironbeak Owl should be used in a similar way to how Equality is used (except of course it doesn’t deal with Alexstrasza). Therefore, I don’t really have too much to say about this card.

Since this deck only runs one copy I would not generally advocate silencing Acolyte of Pain or Mad Scientist since it is more important to deal with a Doomsayer.  In Match-up Theory Part One I said that silencing an Ancient Watcher in a Handlock mirror was risky since it leaves you wide open to a Twilight Drake. Well, I feel that silencing a Mad Scientist/Acolyte is yet another example of a ‘Pyhhric play’.

It is of course worth mentioning that in some cases you can silence your own minion to remove the Freeze effect; this is useful in situations where the attack damage is likely to enable you to trigger Ice Block.

In short; The owl is a nice flexible card that can help you deal with a number of tricky situations.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Consider keeping this card since it is a very good card in the match-up. Generally speaking, this is a much better keep than Equality.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Consider keeping. Not only is Ironbeak owl useful against Freeze Mage against the other archtypes is it likely to be useful early on as well. Played early enough and you might find that not only is the silence useful but the 2/1 body may end up being relevant as well. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Shielded Minibot”]

Not too much to say about this card; it is simply a good solid body that is slightly tricky for the Mage to remove owing to its divine shield. As far as I can tell it serves no special role in the match-up.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Consider keeping: In this Match-up it is important that the Paladin players curves out with threats. In this regard, Minibot is a nice early drop that is really good at claiming board control (it survives Frostbolt and Mad Scientist, unlike Knife Juggler).

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Consider keeping: As above, since this is a good minion to strong when played on-curve it is a good card to keep. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Knife Juggler”]

Just like the minibot above, there is not too much to say about Knife Juggler vis-a-vis this particular match-up. In most case it is simply a 3/2 body that can threaten a decent chunk of damage.

With that said, be mindful of the cards interaction with equality (with enough space on the board you can kill things like Doomsayer, RNG permitting)

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Consider keeping: In this Match-up it is important that the Paladin player curves out with threats. In this regard, Knife Juggler is a nice early drop that threatens a decent amount of damage, which is good since Paladin needs to have a faster clock than the Mage in order to win.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Consider keeping: On curve it is merely a 3/2 which does make it weaker (in most cases) than a mini-bot keep. Ergo, you will have to carefuly consider how likely you are to get value of Jugglers ability if you want to fully appreciate the merit of keeping this card. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Big Game Hunter”]

Alexstrasza is the only target for Big Game Hunter in the opponents deck. This makes BGH a rather situational card in most cases. Moreover, since you can deal with Alexstraza pre-emptively (e.g. Turn Eight Sludge Belcher) and that there are other cards that can do the job of countering Alexstrasza (e.g. Aldor Peacekeeper is almost as effective as BGH is). You do need necessarily need to save BGH for Alexstrazsa when playing Midrange Paladin.

For these reasons, I think that you should value the 4/2 body on BGH more than you value the battlecry in this particular match-up.  Therefore, If it is early in the game (and you have no better play) I would recommend just dropping this card for board presence (remember that board presence is your win condition). If you draw it later on in the game consider the likelihood that you will draw into another counter to Alexstrasza before playing it as a 4/2.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Don’t keep: This card is just too situational. Furthermore, other cards can fulfil the same role.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

See above. Just not worth keeping [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Aldor Peacekeeper”]

Aldor Peacekeeper is not great in the match-up: Sure you can cast it on Alexstrasza or on Archmage Antodandis but since Mage never really expects the bodies their minions to do much (i.e. Thuarissan, Alexstrasza, etc do their jobs the moment they are played…Freeze Mage simply does not need to deal damage with the minions themselves). In short, you can Peacekeeper the Alexstrasza but the Mage probably won’t care. The only useful thing Peacekeeper allows you to do (in this match-up) is trade in your minions and have them survive. Against some other classes (e.g. ‘Handlock’) you can use Peacekeeper to win the ‘damage race’, but this is simply not the case here.

Overall, just like Big Game Hunter, I think this card is more valuable as a 3/3 on board than it is as a battlecry sitting in the hand.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Consider keeping if you plan to play it on curve and have a two-drop.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Consider keeping: the 3/3 body is decent and you can get value out of the battlecry (e.g. it will be helpful versus something like Goblin Blastmage).[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Muster for Battle”]

Muster For Battle doesn’t really have specific/special role in this match-up. And unfortunately we cannot rely on Quartermaster combo’s owning to the Mage’s ability to Freeze (e.g. Blizzard) until they find the Flamestrike.

With that said the card does do two things quite well:

  1. The mere threat of Quartermaster may scare the Mage into using AoE early.
  2. Having a weapon equipped is often useful in this match-up (e.g. With Equality, you can take out Doomsayer).

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

The card is a good candidate for keeping; its great for gaining board control.  Basically, its a really good card to ‘curve out’ with.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Consider keeping: its a nice early card that can slow aggro decks down. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Truesilver Champion”]

Truesilver Champion is a one of the better cards in your deck for this match-up: early on you can use it to clear minions (remember that all damage before Alexstrasza is meaningless; being at 25 health is basically the same as being at 30) and Post-Alexstrasza you can hit face for a ‘free heal’.

And make no mistake, that 2 health heal can be significant; going from 15 to 17 means that you force the Mage to have Ice lance combos since Fireball x2 + Frostbolt is now not enough damage.

Moreover, in many cases having a weapon equipped (any weapon for that matter) will often force the opponent to Freeze your face when they are low on life and/or want to stop you countering Doomsayer with Equality + Weapon Hit.

When using this card there are two things you should keep in mind:

  1. It is a good idea to save one charge of this weapon in order to ‘pre-emptively counter’ Alexstraza.  For example, if you play it on Turn Four I recommend hitting with it once and then not using it again until Alexstraza.
  2. Doomsayer + Freeze Nova can ruin your tempo because most of the time is forces you to waste your turn just passing, which in turn gives the Mage initiative (refer back to my comments on ‘Equality’). Truesilver is a ‘soft counter’ to this; it won’t save your minions, but it will save you from having a really weak turn. In short, my recommendation is to keep this card in hand and develop it on a turn where it would be bad to play minions (e.g. into a Doomsayer, and/or where playing more minions just encourages a Flamestrike)

In Conclusion, this is a flexible tool that has a number of roles in the match-up.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Although a good card in the match-up, it is probably not worth keeping unless you have a great curve.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Consider keeping: Just like Death’s Bite in Warrior, Truesilver is often one of the few ways you can slow down some of the faster decks in the format. With that said, I would only keep it if you have earlier plays as well (e.g. Knife Juggler). [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Blessing of Kings”]

I do not have too much to say about Blessing of Kings; the card has no special/particular role in this match-up.

with that said, the card has two obvious uses and one obscure use:

  1. Pushing Damage
  2. Strengthening your board against AoE (e.g. Flamestrike).
  3. Keeping Sylvanas Windrunner alive.

Points 1 & 2 above are fairly straightforward hence I shall not go into great detail. Point 3 does however require a little explaining, but the jist of it is that by casting the Blessing on Sylvanas makes it that much harder to kill, I’ll explain the importance of keeping Sylvanas alive when I talk about that card.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Don’t keep.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Consecration”]

I do not have too much to say about Consecration; the card has no special/particular role in this match-up.

Most of the time, the Mage will not have a strong enough board to get value out of this card. Therefore, when you are trying to clear minions with this spell often it will function merely as a very expensive Arcane shot.

Worse still, the damage this card can do is often useless without help from other cards (e.g. you need Equality + Consecration to take out a Doomsayer, or Consecration + Truesilver to take out Thuarissan). EVEN worse still, you may find those combinations too slow in many situations, for example: Equality + Consecration is 6 mana, which means that if you tried to counter the Mages ‘Alexstraza turn’ with it you would only have 4 mana to protect yourself against the Fireball onslaught.

In short, this card is of marginal use in this match-up; it will often be used for either doing two face damage or two minion damage.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Don’t keep.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Consider keeping, AoE is often strong against Aggro decks. With that said, take care to note that Consecration performs somewhat poorly currently (e.g the Mages one/two/three-drops are often not actually vulnerable to the clear), and so therefore it may not even be a good keep vs Aggro these days! [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Piloted Shredder”]

Piloted Shredder does not have a special or particular role in this match-up, but it is nonetheless one of the better cards you have at your disposal; the deathrattle enables your board to survive through all AoE attempts (be it Doomsayer or Flamestrike) and with 4 attack is does a decent job threatening the Mage’s life total (for its mana cost, that is).

You may want to refer back to my Sludge Belcher example when discussing Equality, since Shredder can do the same thing (but better!).

In conclusion, this is a nice card to have; it deals good damage and is resistant to board clear.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Consider keeping if you can ‘curve out’ with it.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Consider keeping: Shredder is a rather good trader, and so therefore it will often perform well against Aggro/tempo archtypes. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Antique Healbot”]

This little guy is one of the most important cards you have in you deck to combat Freeze Mage. But with that said, the card won’t save you by itself.

On the Mage’s ‘Alexstrasza turn’, you have three problems to be solved (this list can be found in Part One of my match-up theory article):

  1. A Way to Trigger Ice Block
  2. A Counter to Alexstrasza
  3. Damage mitigation (e.g prevention of Spells (Loatheb) and/or healing)

Of these four problems, Healbot can only help with objective 3. But on the plus side, being only 5 mana means that we will usually have somewhere between 3-5 mana left, which means that you should be able to counter Alexstrasza with BGH on the same turn. BUT EVEN IN THIS CASE you still have problems; if you are unable to trigger Ice Block chances are the Mage will have two or three turns to win, which means they will probably find the time to use Pyroblast against you.

In short, healing is really important in the match-up but it is simply not enough to secure the win. The reason that this match-up is so hard is that achieving objectives 1, 2, and 3 all in one turn is really difficult.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Dont keep. Even though the card is useful you will probably win more games by curving out and putting significant pressure on the board.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Probably don’t keep. As explained above, the card is often useful but curving out tends to be more valuable. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Azure Drake”]

Like so many other cards, Azure Drake serves no special role in this Match-up;  beefing up Consecration with spellpower, for example, is of limited utility (with that said, in conjunction with Truesilver, you can take out a Doomsayer). Ergo, this is often just a 5 mana 4/4 that draws a card.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Don’t keep.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Quartermaster”]

In most other match-ups you would consider holding onto muster for battle and Quartermaster for a ‘power turn’ on Eight. But unfortunately against Mage this combo won’t often work owing to to Blizzard, Flamestrike, etc.

With that said, the combo can be useful if you force the Mage to choose between board clear and other objectives; for example on Turn nine the Mage may want to play Alexstrasza, but if your Turn Eight Quartermaster combo threatens to pop Ice Block they maybe forced to reconsider and play board clear instead.

In many instances this card ends up being more of a ‘looming threat’ than an ‘actual threat’. In other words, the Mage may fear that it is in your hand but probably doesn’t care about the card the moment it hits the board. If, for example you play muster for battle on Turn Four then the Mage has to consider the what happens if the Paladin follows up with Quartermaster. After some consideration, the Mage may decide to pre-emptively clear the board, in fear of the damage Quartermaster can dish out (think of him as being the Paladin’s version of Savage Roar).

All things considered, don’t expect to get value of this card; in many cases he is probably not going to be much more than a 5 mana 2/5. But on the plus side, this card will make the Mage fear Muster for Battle and in the rare event that it is not countered by AoE it can win you the game.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Dont keep.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Sludge Belcher”]

Sludge Belcher is simply a 3/5 Taunt in a match-up where the ‘Taunt mechanic’ is of little use (with that said, it is good at stopping Alexstrasza from hitting you). On the plus side, the deathrattle and the 5 health makes you a little resilient to board clear.

In many cases you will probably find the Shredder ends up being more useful since its one extra damage and a bigger minion on death.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Dont keep.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Sylvanas Windrunner”]

When playing Sylvanas Windrunner think of her as being an expensive 5/5 minion. The deathrattle, enables her to pre-emptively counter Alexstrasza (since you trade her in and get yourself an 8/3) but that is the exception to the rule; most of the time you will get almost no value out of the deathrattle, hence I called her an expensive 5/5.

But it get’s worse: The mage actually has a play that makes the deathrattle a liability!  

Suppose you have a massive board with Sylvannas in play. Let’s also assume that you have been clever and have kept a silence in hand in case of Doomsayer + Frost Nova. In such a situation you might be feeling confident about your winning chances. That is until the Mage exploits your Sylvanas with Doomsayer + Fireball. You steal the Doomsayer and your whole board dies at the start of the turn.  Ergo, the Ironbeak owl you saved in case of Doomsayer did not help you.

Make no mistake, this combo is powerful and Freeze Mage players are fully aware of it.

In the first clip below we can see Kolento wreck a Handlock with the combo, and in the second clip we can see Strifecro ‘play-around’ this very possibility:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9PZr__OiAs

To defend yourself against such a combo you can silence Sylvanas (not recommend), make Sylvanas harder to kill (e.g. Blessing of Kings), or just play her after the Doomsayers have been used.

But anyway, the conclusion is that this is not a good match-up for Slyvanas; you must play her with care.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Dont keep.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Dr. Boom”]

Dr. Boom is, in the right situation, really strong in the match-up. On the turn you play him he represents 9 damage, possibly a lot more depending on Boom Bot RNG. He is not easy to deal card efficiently and best of all, he can make AoE a dangerous prospect for the Mage (if they are on low health).

Remember that in the current mechanics of the game Secrets do not activate during your turn, This therefore means that should the Mage try to clear the board with Doomsayer or Blizzard, etc there is a chance that the Boom bots will outright kill them.

In the Lifecoach clip below, we can clearly see that the Iceblock was of no use:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=111&v=8WLyRvPGHYY

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Despite being a good card, it is simply not worth keeping in the starting hand.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Lay on Hands”] [spoiler]

Lay on Hands is a tricky card to use in this match-up; the problem with having card draw and healing bound to one card is that in some games you may feel the urge to draw, but then the problem is whether you will have enough healing in order to survive.

Moreover, please refer back to the ‘Alexstrazsa turn’ analysis I did when talking about Antique Healbot. Lay on Hands, due to being and 8 mana spell, leaves you with little mana to achieve your other objectives, and so we have the problem that this card is often too low impact on the turn we play it.

In conclusion, this is one of the best cards we have for this match-up and yet you will often find that it is a little bit too slow to win us the game. The heal is probably more useful than the cards in most cases so it is right to hold this until Alexstrasza.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Dont keep.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title=”Tirion Fordring”]

As a 6/6 with divine shield Tirion Fordring is resistant to board clear and even when killed Ashbringer will quickly chip away at the Mage’s life pool.

Overall, I consider Tirion a fairly mediocre card in this match-up relative to its cost (most of the time you play Tirion in this match-up you would probably end up wishing that it was Ragnaros the Firelord or Dr. Boom instead).

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Dont keep.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep.[/spoiler]

And lastly, let us consider some tech cards that we could put into the above Paladin list if we wanted to try and improve the match-up:

[spoiler title =”Loatheb”] 

 Loatheb is great in the match-up; you can use it mid-game to protect the board from AoE or you can use it post-Alexstrasza in order to significantly reduce the amount of incoming damage (on their next turn). All things considered this is a great tech card versus Freeze Mage and is useful in a bunch of other match-ups as well.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Consider Keeping. At 5 mana it is not too expensive and it is almost certain that you will find a use for card at some point (unlike say Harrison Jones).

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep. Against Aggro its basically a 5/5. You will be better off throwing it back looking for a good curve.[/spoiler]

[spoiler title =”Kezan Mystic”] 

Of all the cards in the game, Kezan Mystic is probably the single most powerful ‘tech card’ against Freeze Mage. While beginners may like to play this on curve grabbing whatever secrets they can Intermediate and Advanced players would do well to take heed of the following:

  1. Against a smart Freeze Mage player, stealing Ice Barrier will do nothing but prevent them from gaining 8 armour (in other words, stealing this is NOT a 16 point life swing). Good Freeze Mages have learnt the technique of not attacking face with their minions from the mirror match: in that match-up you don’t want to trigger Ice Barrier because in most cases you would not be able to clear all of the armour via minion damage, and thus “2 damage” effectively becomes “6 heal”.  The better secret for stealing is the Ice Block.
  2. Be patient: While they have Ice Block up Freeze Mage will often go on the offensive despite being at low health (e.g. they will Alexstrasza you to 15 despite being one 1hp themselves). This gives you a window of opportunity to get a quick & clean surprise kill.  Whereas if you steal the secret early the Mage will play the rest of the game rather differently.
  3. Sometimes as Freeze Mage you can have a large hand (e.g 8-10 cards) and still not have the things you want. In such cases, a common tactic is just to ‘waste’ a spell (or two) in order to make room for card draw (e.g. if I am at 10 cards, I cannot play Arcane Intellect, but if I ‘waste’ two cards I can then draw two new ones with the intelect)   Now, When secrets are active, the secound copy in hand is unplayable. Thus, by being patient and not stealing the secret the first chance you get can make it difficult for the Mage to cycle thier deck.

In the Game below even though Cifka does not win we can nonethless learn something about patience from him; he doesn’t play either of the Kezan’s for some time. The game is well worth watching for other reasons too; true to Fitzy14’s advice Antonidas + Frost Nova is a powerful combo indeed.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Strong contender for keeping.  If you only run one copy then by throwing it back you risk not drawing it again. Moreover, at 4 mana the card can be played early in the game.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Consider keeping: Most Mage decks run secrets and by stealing them for yourself you not only make life akward for your opponent but you also save yourself a major headache as well. [/spoiler]

[spoiler title =”Ragnaros the Firelord”] 

Ragnaros the Firelord does not counter Freeze Mage as well as Loatheb or Kezan Mystic might but he does nonetheless give the Paladin deck more options.

For example, we have claimed at various points through out this article that the 7 health of Doomsayer and Antonidas is a problem (especially if the board is Frozen) and we have also said the Paladin struggles to deal enough damage to trigger Ice Block.

Well, owing to the fact the Mage runs so few minions Ragnaros is often going to do huge face damage or he is going to clear the board of the Mage’s big minion threats and power-plays (e.g Ragnaros offers a 50/50 chance of countering Antonidas + Frost Nova). And best of all, Freezing the board is not going to save them from the damage.

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Don’t keep.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep[/spoiler]

[spoiler title =”Stampeding Kodo”] 

Stampeding Kodo is a card not often seen in constructed, but it is actually a decent card for Paladin. In combination with Aldor Peackeeper, you have an 8 mana two-card combo that will destroy almost any minion; which is be very useful in control match-ups. Against Aggro you will probably find that Kodo is a decent ‘stand alone’ card.

The point I am making above is that Kodo in Paladin often ends up being useful in a variety of match-ups.  Against Freeze Mage specifically this card is a great way of dealing with Doomsayer. Moreover,  when used in conjunction with Peacekeeper you have an additional way to deal with something like Frost Nova + Antonidas.

Remember also that in this match-up Kodo will consistently kill what you want it to kill; since Freeze Mage rarely has more than two minions on board the ‘random’ aspect of Kodo’s ability is usually of little significance.

In conclusion, Kodo is a decent tech card for any Paladin list that runs double Peacekeeper; it will perform decently in a variety of match-ups (including Freeze Mage).

Mulligan (against Freeze Mage):

Consider keeping if (a) You already have a good curve (b) Do not have anyother counter to Doomsayer in hand.

Mulligan (when you are playing against an unknown Mage Archetype):

Don’t keep[/spoiler]

The Mulligan

Xzirez (the creator of the Paladin deck), in his Hearthpwn guide (see references) makes the following Mulligan recommendation:

  • If its Freeze Mage keep: All 1-3 drops and Healbot.
  • If its Tempo Mage keep: All 1-3 drops, Truesilver and Shredder. Never keep Consecration.

It seems that we Xzirez and I agree on most things; the most notable distinction being that I would not keep Antique Healbot in the starting hand and would consider throwing back Zombie Chow (only if I knew for certain that is was Freeze Mage).  With that said, since he is more experienced with this deck than I am it is perhaps a good idea to exercise a little humility; when talking about this particular deck my advice is more likely to be wrong than his is.

But, I shall plough on regardless!  The next couple of paragraphs are my opinions on the Mullgian. What follows is simply a short summary of what I said when I discussed the roles of all the cards…

Firstly, remember that on ladder right now a variety of Mage Archetypes are being played. Thus, when picking our cards we will need to find the balance between get a good hand versus Freeze Mage and a good hand versus everything else. Thus, we are probably going to be keeping Zombie chow in most of our starting hands (despite it being a fairly poor performer against Freeze Mage).

But in general, our primary concern should be dominating the board early on (we do this by trying to ‘fill in the curve’) and at around turn 4 we want to be thinking about trying to make the board a bit sticky (in order to play around Turn Four Explosive Sheep + Ping, Turn 5 Doomsayer + Frost Nova, Turn 6 Blizzard, and so on). Since these are our early game goals our mulligan needs to reflect this whilst also being able to combat aggro.

I would also consider keeping cards like equality or Ironbeak owl (never both!) if you feel that you could also get value out the card early on against the other Archetypes.

Cards like Truesilver Champion are fine keeps so long as you can curve out with the rest of your hand (i.e. have a 2 & 3-drop).

One last point to consider is that most Mage archetypes will keep Mad Scientist and play it on Turn Two. When Mulligan-ing and making our early plays we should consider this. For example, a simple rule to follow would be to prefer to play Minibot over Knife Juggler unless you can protect the Juggler from a Turn Two Mad Scientist.

A Few Commentated Games…

[spoiler]

Strifeco’s Paladin list is different from the list supplied in this article. Nonetheless, you will probably find this game well worth watching.

In this game you can understand the match-up from the Paladin’s perspective.

[/spoiler]

[spoiler]

[/spoiler]

[spoiler]

In this video you can see my play two games in this match-up from the Freeze Mage’s perspective.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSjkI9XvEsI

[/spoiler]

Conclusion

Okay so that concludes Part One.  I hope that you all have a better understanding as to how to play Midrange Paladin against Freeze Mage. In Part Two we will be studying this Match-up from the perspective of Freeze Mage.

As always guys, comments & likcs, etc are welcome. 🙂

A potential Series?

As a writer I am always trying to find things to write about that are valuable to readers.  With this two part guide my initial aim was to create something that would neatly compliment my Match-up theory articles. But I have seen numerous reddit posts in the past with people asking for tips and tricks regarding certain match-ups and I myself have never seen anyone else cover any match-up in a guide as extensively as I have do so here.

This begs and interesting question: Is there are demand for this sort of content? Would you guys be interested in seeing articles like this serialised (a different match-up to be covered each episode, of course) ? And if so, what match-ups would you like me/the HSP team to cover?

Let me/us know in the comments below.

References & Further Reading

Link to Part Two:

  • Smashthings, In-Depth Match-up Analysis: Midrange Paladin vs Freeze Mage (Part Two) *(Pending)

Understanding Match-up Theory Series:

Freeze Mage Articles:

Paladin Articles: