In this article [DKMR]Kisstafer is going to give you the scoop on the best way to play the Freeze Mage deck when paired up against an opponent who is piloting a Miracle Rogue deck. Miracle Rogue is one of the most dominant decks on the ladder and in tournaments right now; our goal at Team Don’t Kick My Robot is to give you a game plan that can beat it very consistently.
WARNING: This is an advanced deck, and is best suited for more experienced players. It is also on the expensive side to craft, featuring 5 epics and 2 legendaries. However; for those of you who are prepared to continue we will jump right into the strategy talk.
DKMR Says: Freeze Mage is the favorite in this matchup.
Deck At A Glance
Freeze Mage is a unique deck that can only be described as a combo deck. This deck employs the unique strategy of using powerful class specific freeze spells like frost-nova and blizzard, and board clears like flamestrike to stall the game until it draws enough damage spells to burn the enemy from full HP to zero.
This type of Mage contains a plethora of card-drawing cantrips that are played as mana allows in between casting freeze spells so that it can draw into it’s win condition faster. The primary kill-move of this deck is when it plays alextrasza to cut the opponent’s life to 15, it then finishes them off with fireball, frostbolt, and pyroblast. The key ingredient that allows this deck to function so successfully is ice-block; this card allows Mage to stay alive long enough to finish opponents that would otherwise be able to take them down.
Freeze Mage relies on spells and not minions to deal lethal damage, because of this the primary weakness of this deck is if the opponent has the ability to heal back up. The deck only contains a finite amount of damage, so any healing past that renders it futile. Other weaknesses include inability to stop the damage incoming from decks that use mostly charge minions, and any Hunter decks that feature the card Flare.
Early Game Plan
The early game plan against a miracle rogue is to play all of your card draw minions; novice-engineer, acolyte-of-pain, and play your arcane-intellect or an azure-drake (unless you are forced to spend your mana in other ways). You can play pretty greedy with the card draw early on in this matchup because Miracle Rogue usually has a hard time ramping up any board pressure until at least turn 5.
This deck does a good job of taking advantage of the rogue’s slow start because it’s a lot easier to conserve your removal and freeze spells when you only have to start using them on turn 5-6 and later. You want to draw as many cards as you possibly can at the start, this sets you up with as many options as possible when going into the mid-late game. It’s important to get the card draw out of the way early because during later turns you may have to spend your mana on freeze spells and other stalling tactics. The miracle rogue’s early creatures are generally taken care of easily with Frost Bolt or mirror-image (sometimes you can just cast ice barrier and wait until an aoe freeze becomes more warranted).
It’s important to remember when playing this deck that taking some small damage here and there early on is acceptable in the hope of getting more value out of our freeze spells. Spending a Frost Nova on a single minion is something you should try to avoid; as a rule of thumb, it’s best to save freeze spells until they have at least two minions on the board.
The early game is one of the best times to lay down Ice Block. It is imperative that Ice Block be played against Miracle Rogue due to the high burst damage they can put out to win. When you have the mana you want to get this card out of your hand earlier, because in the later stages of the game your mana is reserved on expensive spells like Blizzard and Flame Strike. By getting Ice Block out of the way, you can force the Rogue to play your game instead of you being forced to play his.
To be successful with Freeze Mage, your mana allotment has to be planned out many turns in advance. The better you do of fitting in time to cast your card draw spells early on will pay back dividends late-game because it increases the chances that you will have drawn all of the pieces of your “kill-move” (it’s also important to draw the necessary stall cards or else you may just end up dying before you can pull it off). In this matchup most games are won or lost based on how well you are able to draw your deck so playing the early game perfectly and mulliganing well is extremely important.
Mid game is when using spells like Frost Nova, Blizzard, doomsayer and Flamestrike usually take up all of your mana. It’s the waiting period before you drop Alextrasza. If you haven’t drawn Alextrasza yet, you will want to get really creative in using your life as a resource and only playing freeze spells when you absolutely have to.
Keep in mind when facing a miracle rogue that when their board is frozen the only way to die is by leeroy-jenkins + shadowstep combo (18 damage at 8 mana, or more if they have preparation). This means that effectively each freeze spell can be seen as drawing an extra card as it will delay the game for an entire turn. The more turns you see without your Ice Block being triggered, the more chances you will have to draw the cards you need to win, so use your freeze spells sparingly.
The 1 of vaporize is extremely valuable in this matchup because it allows you to be immune to the Leeroy combo as long as you can keep the rest of their board frozen or cleared – it’s also strong against concealed gadgetzan-auctioneer and ridiculously large edwin-vancleef’s that you can’t otherwise kill.
The hardest part about mastering freeze mage is being able to extend the mid-game for as long as the cards allow; when you don’t get the perfect draw sometimes you have to get creative in order to extend the game, and use cards in ways the deck wasn’t intended to use them. For example, sometimes you get dealt a hand that has Alextrasza and a lot of burn, but you can’t support going all-in because you don’t have an Ice Block yet. In cases like these, sometimes it’s best to make up for with damage spells what you lack in stall and use a couple Frostbolts or Fireballs to clear their board
On the other hand, sometimes there are games where you don’t draw Alextrasza and the best course of action is to just set up the ice-block and start throwing everything at their face. When making decisions like this just keep in mind that the end game goal is to deal 30 damage to their face before you die. This deck has room for some flexibility so every turn you need to evaluate your hand and choose the route that is most likely to achieve victory. If you have not drawn the full combo it’s best to extend the mid game for as long as possible before being forced to go all-in on one plan, by seeing more cards it allows you to make a better decision on which route to take.
Playing Doomsayer in the mid-game is a great way to get some of the rogue’s direct damage spells out of their hand and away from your face, like a decoy. And in the off chance they haven’t drawn sap, sometimes you can clear the board which frees up a lot of mana that would have otherwise been spent playing freeze spells. Another way Doomsayer can be used in this matchup is by just putting it down on an empty board to prevent the opponent from being able to play any minions for a turn. If you think about it, delaying the opponent from playing minions for a turn is effectively the same as freezing minions for a turn, except Doomsayer only costs 2 mana which makes this is a very powerful delay tactic.
End Game Plan
The end game plan with this deck relies on how well you were able to draw your resources in the early – mid game, as the end game pretty much plays itself out. One of the strongest moves this deck can do when going second is to save the coin for dropping Alextrasza and to accelerate how fast it reaches the end game, granted it is safe to do so.
The best way to set up Alextrasza is to make sure you have Ice Block face down and prevent them from popping it the turn before you drop her by using a freeze spell or setting up the Vaporize so they can’t throw Leeroy at you. Setting Ice Block early in the game can pay off a lot at this stage because it opens up more options on the turn before dropping Alextrasza, for example turn 8 can also be spent by playing a Blizzard + Doomsayer combo instead of having to worry about how to fit in mana to play Ice Block as well. In cases where you were not able to set Ice Block early on, you may be forced to delay your end game until you can have a turn where you can freeze their board and play Ice Block at the same time.
When planning out the best time to drop Alextrasza, make sure to account for the fact that miracle rogue commonly uses earthen ring farseer and can shadowstep it up to two times and gain anywhere between 3 to 12 life while triggering your 1st Ice Block in the same turn. This is why it is important to stockpile damage in your hand prior to dropping her. Once you spend an entire turn playing Alex instead of freezing his board you are usually all-in, and are exposed to having your Ice Block triggered.
This means you need to be prepared to either play a second Ice Block or have enough damage to deal the final blow after setting them to 15 health. You can plan for this ahead of time by stalling the game out for as long as possible until you have enough damage spells saved up to burn them out even after they heal up with the farseer.
If you do drop Alex prematurely, you may find you did not stall long enough and didn’t draw enough damage to actually kill them. One rule of thumb that may help you avoid this is to simply hold off on dropping Alextrasza until either you have no freezes left or until the miracle rogue has enough direct damage to trigger your iceblock regardless of if you freeze or not.
If the rogue can pop your ice block on his next turn, you are forced to drop Alextrasza no matter what and just hope that you topdeck the damage needed to finish him. It has to be this way because if they pop your ice block you will never get a chance to play Alextrasza again, as they will simply kill you if you spend all 9 of your mana playing her on any given turn – there are situations that can arise where you may even be forced to play Alextrasza on yourself for the heal.
Along the same vein, when it’s time to do-or-die it is good to get pyroblast out of your hand before any of your other burn spells because it is the most clunky card in your deck, and cannot be played in the same turn as a second ice block the way a fireball or frostbolt combo can.
The mulligan phase is at the end of this guide because the most important thing about making good choices during the mulligan is having your game plan clear-cut in your mind before the match even starts. You need to know how the matchup commonly plays out during the early-mid-late game stages in order to select which cards you want to keep at the start.
During the Mulligan phase at the start of the match, when faced against a miracle rogue you want to be looking for all of your card draw, and maybe a frostbolt to deal with pesky SI7 agents or Earthen Ring Farseers. It is fine to keep Alextrasza and Ice Block in this matchup as well since you are usually under no meaningful pressure early on – it’s nice to guarantee having them because one of the easiest ways to lose the game vs miracle rogue with freeze mage is by simply failing to draw these two important pieces of the deck.
When you are in the mulligan phase vs a Miracle Rogue you should be looking for Novice Engineer, Loot Hoarder, Acolyte of Pain, Arcane Intellect, Azure Drake, Ice Block, Alextrasza, and Frostbolt. You should only keep an Azure Drake if you already have cards from that list that you can play earlier on in the game. If you want further demonstration, please take a moment to watch the following video that contains footage of [DKMR]Kisstafer doing several mulligans.
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Written by [DKMR]Kisstafer