The Romanian Hearthstone player Radu “Rdu” Dima used the Frost Mage deck exclusively in the final set of the DreamHack Summer Hearthstone finals. After three games, the 17-year-old player was crowned champion and walked away $10,000 richer for his efforts.
Frost Mage’s potency is something of a curiosity. The deck, which had variations that were popular in the beta prior to a nerf to its key cards, has been all but nonexistent for the last several months. Even at DreamHack, only two players of the 256 players competing, one of whom was the champion, played it. Frost Mage’s power comes from the fact that it counters the single most played deck at the highest level, Miracle Rogue.
Frost Mage uses stall mechanics to draw the game out into the same kind of victory time and time again. Your job is to live until turn nine, use Alexstrasza on them, and then kill them the following turn.
If you you’re the kind of person that likes winning wars by attrition, take a look at the deck list below.
The first thing you should notice is that this deck is extremely light on minions. There are only nine minions with spells making up the rest of the deck. Of those nine minions, only three are significant damage dealers, with the rest being there for card draw or board clear. You’ll have to get used to spells being the crux of your deck.
This deck is all about living until you win through one very specific set of circumstances. The two cards that play the biggest role in those circumstances are Ice Block and Alexstrasza.
Hearthstone, at the moment, is all about burst damage, and Ice Block is the single most effective card in the game at mitigating that threat. Ice Block is effectively a get-out-of-jail-free card. Any damage that could potentially kill you causes your character to become immune to damage for the rest of the turn.
Fearing Miracle Rogue’s big late game burst? Ice Block negates that concern for a turn. Are Handlock’s beefy minions smacking away at you? Ice Block gives you another chance at victory. This card will frequently be the difference between winning and losing.
Ice Block keeps you alive so Alexstrasza can get you the win. Even with a hefty nine mana cast, the mileage you’ll see from this card, in this deck, is astounding. Alexstrasza sets either you or your opponent’s life to 15. You’ll almost always be using this card offensively to lower your opponents health, and very frequently you’ll be lowering their health from its 30 to 15.
Take a moment to think about what value you get from that card. This nine mana card gives you an eight health, eight damage behemoth minion and will often do 15 damage instantly to your opponent. Consider it a better Pyroblast in this deck. Pyroblast costs 10 mana, only does 10 damage, and you get no minion.
Ice Block and Alexstrasza is the combination that will set up almost all of your wins. When you play Alexstrasza, ideally on turn nine, you want Ice Block up. Alexstrasza should be used offensively to bring your opponent to 15 health. With Ice Block active your opponent can’t just kill you, so they have to play another turn.
If your opponent doesn’t kill Alexstrasza during his turn you have and eight damage minion and 15 health opponent. That means you need to make up seven damage, which should be easy as a mage. That’s a six damage Fireball and your hero power. That’s Frost Bolt and an Ice Lance. Or Two Frost Bolts and a hero power.
If your opponent does kill Alexstrasza during their turn, things get more complicated. But all is not lost. Frequently your opponent will have to use a lot resources, resources that otherwise would have gone towards making your Ice Block pop, to kill him. If your opponent kills Alexstrasza and and you still have Ice Block, you effectively have two turns to figure out how to do 15 damage. That isn’t so bad for a Mage with 10 mana. If Alexstrasza was killed and your Ice Block was popped things get tricky: 15 damage can be done in one turn if you have the right cards, but if you don’t you’ll likely need to use your second Ice Block.
Doomsayer and cards like Blizzard or Frost Nova can be used to clear your opponents board. Doomsayer, a zero damage and seven health card, destroys all minions—including your own—at the start of your next turn. If your opponent is overwhelming you with minions you can use Doomsayer and either of the board freezes to clear your opponent’s side of the deck.
Turn three is an interesting that deserves mention. If you have Ice Block in your hand you might feel inclined to use it as it costs three mana. But consider whether or not you need it active at that moment. If you have other three drops, like an Acolyte of Pain, they’re often better to play. If you don’t have another three mana card playing Ice Block on turn three isn’t horrible either, just try and be aware of what your needs are at the moment.
Turn nine is the most important turn in almost every match up. Ideally you want to be playing Alexstrasza on turn nine and already have your Ice Block active. Ice Block keeps you alive at least one more turn and Alexstrasza gets your opponent in range to kill them with the grace period Ice Block Provides.
Overall strengths and weaknesses
This deck is suited for very specific match ups that often times only appear at the highest levels of play.
If you’re running into aggressive decks while playing Frost Mage you’re going to have problems. Certain Druid styles and Warlock Zoo are very difficult to play against. These matches are winnable, but it requires all the right answers at all the right times. The burden of playing flawlessly will be on the Mage.
Miracle Rogue, the staple deck of those competing at the highest level, is countered by Frost Mage, however. Miracle Rogue’s tremendous burst with Leeroy Jenkins and Shadow Step is countered by Ice Block, and boy is it glorious when your opponent has 20 damage in his hand and he can’t use it to kill you.
If you’re considering taking the game more seriously this is a deck that will, sooner or later, be something that all players at playing at a competitive level will need to have mastered.
Image via Blizzard