Many pros don’t seem to correctly understand this match up of Freeze Mage vs Oil Rogue on either side, and the purpose of this post is to offer perspective to the wider hearthstone community on how this match up should be expected to play out. Our post will offer insight into both the Rogue players thought process and lines of play, as well as the Mage players thought process and lines of play respectively.
This article will proceed under the assumption that both decks are not teched specifically for the match up – as such the Mage list and Rogue list are as shown here. With also have samples in this article.
Due to the ever changing nature of the Hearthstone meta, these lists are volatile and you may encounter different cards. Both of these decks house a core, and there is little room for alteration within each of them. The largest variations you can foreseeably encounter would be Dr Boom and/or Assassins Blade within the Rogue’s deck, and Malygos within the Mages deck.
As such, our guide and analysis moving forward will act under the assumption these cards are not prevalent in the meta game, but little adaption needs to occur if they become prevalent.
This adaption is primarily the inclusion of Assassins Blade to a keep in the Rogue mulligan. Dr Boom should not be kept despite it being a “slower” match up.
Obviously Malygos will not be kept in the Mage mulligan, and it should not be played around as the Rogue, due to the larger amount of combo pieces it requires to be relevant – this increased difficulty in pulling off the combo only improves your ability to burst them out of the game before they can achieve their goal.
Hard mulligan for creatures. Your early removal is of little relevance in this match up as you are able to use your dagger to clear them off – damage taken to your face is not relevant until you reach below 20. Many Rogues advocate for keeping preparation in all match ups but this is not one of them. Prep is often a dead card until you are popping their block or sprinting as there are few tempo plays it allows. If going 2nd, Coin SI is preferable to Daggering on turn 2 as it can provide additional damage or force a response affording you more time to pressure the Mage.
Always KeepViolet Teacher Piloted Shredder Azure Drake Loatheb Sprint
Keep Going Secondsi7-agent Violet Teacher Piloted Shredder Azure Drake Loatheb Sprint
General Game Plan
The overarching game plan of this match up is to kill your opponent. Sounds familiar right? The only difficulty in such is the amount of healing and stall combined with ice blocks within their deck. To counteract this, the most optimal line of play is to pressure early and maintain pressure throughout the entire game. This pressure forces inefficient stall/clears/burn and denies them the ability to cycle to their hearts content.
It’s rare that you can afford to play around AOE in this match up. The goal is to keep dumping minions onto the board until you have a board presence and they pass their turn without freezing your board. Once you have this semblance of a board able to attack you must convert it to your advantage through Oil/Blade Flurry/burst plays.
You should ideally be popping their first block before turn 10, and prior to their offensive Alex. If this is the case, you can usually topple over them before they assemble either the necessary stall or the required burn to kill you first. If at any point they are forced to defensively Alexstrasza, you’ve won.
Our game plan is as such because of how the Freeze Mage deck operates. Given enough time, they will find enough damage to kill you. Simple as that. The best strategy to counteract that is to kill them first. It’s difficult to make it sound more difficult than that.
When to drop certain cards (value of cards at certain points)Loatheb
Loatheb should be used to either defend your board, or to deny their ability to kill you. In 90% of cases it should be used in the former, as if you are using in the latter sense, the game is likely lost anyway unless you are popping their block in the same turn.
Antique Healbot/Earthen Ring Farseer
Healbot should not be used unless you feel you are appropriately in danger of dying in the future 2 turns. This will only be the case if they are prematurely throwing burn at your face pre-alex, or obviously, post-alex. Farseer can be used at any point during the match up. Pre-alex, it should be used to heal up minions to preserve board unless you are in threat of death, and post-alex it should be used to heal your hero to potentially deny lethal.
Violet Teacher vs Piloted Shredder
Teacher is better early game, Shredder is better late game. As such, it is always optimal to develop Teacher first, as it allows you to snowball the board and achieve significantly more pressure in the early game, whilst Shredder is more resilient to board clears late-game.Southsea Deckhand
Use Deckhand only if you are desperately clearing Antonidas/Emperor/Alex/Doomsayer, or you are pushing for significant damage alongside the Deckhand.Eviscerate
Eviscerate can be thrown at the face at any point during the game, preferably to deny your own overdraw or to deal additional damage due to spellpower being present on the board.Sprint
Prep Sprint in the early turns, sprint without prep in the late turns, only use sprint if you already have creatures in play or are looking for a burn spell to push for lethal.Sap
If your opponent is card starved, it is correct to sap their card draw mechanisms (Scientist, Acolyte, Loot) assuming you can adequately respond to any remaining larger creatures they have remaining. Creature vs Sprint – Always develop a creature over sprinting, as board pressure is the win condition in this match up.
Which cards from the opponent which should be dodged/would be dropped:
The obvious turns where threats to your board come out are:
Turn 4 – Doomsayer
Turn 5 – Nova/Doomsayer
Turn 6 – Blizzard
Turn 7 – Flamestrike
Turn 8 – Blizzard/Doomsayer
Only react to Doomsayers if you are preserving multiple creatures and not excessively wasting damage on them.
Conclusion of Rogue Section
This is a favorable match up for the Rogue assuming they play it correctly and maintain pressure throughout the match up. Tournament statistics reflect it as being a 40-60 match up for the Rogue, but independent testing prior to the writing of this article revealed a 70% win rate for the Rogue player following this strategy.
Freeze Mage Perspective
The Freeze vs Oil Rogue match up, assuming the oil rogue plays perfectly is 30-70 to 40-60 in the oil rogue’s favour, depending on the variant of the oil rogue list. However should the freeze play the manner in which the average ladder Freeze Mage plays, while the rogue plays perfectly, the win rate should go down to approximately 10-90 to 20-80 in the oil rogue’s favour.
However, should the rogue misplay and not attempt to pressure the board, the win rate will become approximately 40-60 to even 60-40, as reflected in existing tournament statistics.
Should there be any dissent in any of the line of play mentioned, feel free to dispute, when I take notice, I will respond to why it is most likely a sub optimal line of play.
Overall Lines to Take
There are only 3 lines in which a Freeze Mage can take to attain victory, in almost every situation.
The first is via dropping Alexstrasza into burns for the lethal.
The second is done via attaining a large number of fireballs from archmage-antonidas and burning down the opponent.
The third manner is by killing them from a war of attrition. Utilizing every burn on their damage threats and stalling to victory, from fatigue.
However, in this matchup, the manner in which the Freeze Mage player wins is viable a combination of the 1st and 2nd line mentioned above, while playing to stall as much as possible prior. The Freeze Mage should attempt to fish for 2 fireballs from archmage or 1 should the draws permit to kill the rogue player in combination with Alexstrasza through the Antique Healbot, after stalling as much as possible.
I am aware that the player Firebat plays this matchup using the 3rd line mentioned above, however, it is not viable should the Rogue play perfectly due to the having an extreme unlikelihood of denying every minion from sticking, or a South Sea Deckhand from pressuring the Freeze Mage player out of the game with oil and eviscerate. Fatigue is not a viable line against a good Rogue player.
The Freeze Mage player should attempt to mull similar to how it should be mulled against a Face Hunter player. The cards that should be kept are:
Frostbolt, only 1 copy of such should a scenario in which there is the option to keep 2
Loot Hoarder, keep every copy of such
Doomsayer, only 1 copy of such should a scenario in which there is the option to keep 2
Mad Scientist, keep every copy of such
Bloodmage Thalnos, toss away should you have Loothoarder or Mad Scientist
Acolyte of Pain, keep only 1 copy in every scenario, however toss it away should there be Arcane Intellect and any 2 mana card other than and only Doomsayer in the opening mulls
Arcane Intellect, only 1 copy of this card should a scenario in which there is the option to keep 2
Ice Barrier, only keep this in the hand should there be a Loothoarder/Mad Scientist and Arcane Intellect in the opening mulls. Every other card not mentioned should not be kept in the opening mulls. The mulls do not change should you go first or second.
When to drop certain cards (value of cards at certain points in order of mana cost)
From turns 1 to 5, it does not matter whether the opponent misplays, the play is nearly always the same. The prioritization of what should be done is written in order, with the one with the highest prioritization above.
Turn 1: Coining out any 2 drop must and should only be done should there be another 2 drop in the hand.
Turn 2: Development of 2 mana drops should be in the following prioritization: Mad Scientist, Loot Hoarder, Bloodmage Thalnos.
Turn 3: Frostbolt any 3 drop the opponent might potentially coin out. Acolyte on turn 3 should always be done, should there be other form or draws in the hand, with the exception of arcane intellect. Should the opponent drop a globin auto-bar going into your turn 3, you should ping the auto barber over developing a secret.
Should the possibility of either developing a secret or arcane intellect, the option should be tied entirely to whether there is a 2 mana card in hand which can be used for turn 4 in which the 2 mana card would be used in conjunction with the hero power. Ice barrier on turn 3 should always be developed over ice block in this match up.
Turn 4: Doomsayer should always be dropped on turn 4 against the rogue, even if it is on an empty board, in conjunction with a ping, a 2 mana drop or Frostbolt any 3 mana minion drop that the rogue drops for stalls. Fireball any teachers that is played
Turn 5: Should the option to Acolyte + Ping acolyte or Secret + Ping, the correct play ties directly into whether there is a blizzard/double undeveloped secret in hand, if there is not, Acolyte + Ping is superior. There should be no scenario in which there can be 2, 2 mana cards in hand as such it should not be a consideration.
Turn 6 onwards: Blizzard any board that consists of more than a combined attack of 8, if not attempt to develop draws and secrets. Ice block should be developed over ice barrier with the exception being popped by the board or weapon buffs/evis. Flamestrike holds a greater value than blizzard in this match up. Frost Nova should be used somewhat as a last resort to play around loatheb, the exception being 2 Nova and 1 blizzard in hand.
Emperor Thaurissan should only be dropped if it hits at least 2 of the following. ice-lance, Archmage Antonidas, frost-nova (if it hits 2 Frost Nova, count it as 1) and Frostbolt. The turns should be played with the attempt of being as efficient as possible. Should the scenario in which you can generate 2 fireballs with archmage is in hand with Alexstrasza, you should attempt to drop archmage first and generate the fireballs before dropping Alexstraza Generating 2 fireballs from archmage plays around healbot. Keeping nova over Blizzard or Flamestrike plays around Loatheb which is extremely game changing.
Should the opponent misplay
Should the opponent misplay by not attempting to pressure you out of the game early by flooding the board with minions, the general line of play should go from going hard on prioritizing stall, cycling should be prioritized, with emphasis on efficiency. There isn’t much else to add.
Conclusion of Freeze Mage Section
This is not a favorable match up for the Freeze Mage assuming the Oil Rogue plays correctly, but given most ladder players inexperience with the match up, following the aforementioned advice should bolster your win rate in this specific match up, regardless of which side you are playing it from.
We tested this match up over 100 games utilizing the rules and advice written in this post and resulted in a final score of 66-34 in the Rogues favor. Whilst this is still a relatively small sample size, we think it reflects our understanding of the match up being Rogue favored.
I hope you enjoyed our first contribution to the Hearthstone community guys, let us know if you took anything away from this post or have any questions!