Freeze Mage has been around in Hearthstone since the beginning of public testing and has been consistently viewed as one of the strongest decks. The core of the deck has stayed relatively similar as time has gone on, with only few cards getting changed or rotated out. The parts of this article will show the evolution of Freeze Mage and the different iterations of the deck that have come from different cards being released.
Freeze Mage revolves around stalling your opponent until you have the necessary cards to burn them down after using Alexstrasza. While Alexstrasza is not a requirement to win, it does make things easier as you would most likely need less direct damage after using her effect. Drawing cards is a strength of this deck because the player needs to be able to get the burn cards needed to win along with Alexstrasza to lower their life. When talking about the beginning Freeze Mage, you have to talk about the deck before the nerfs happened in beta. The stall that Freeze Mage had been unparalleled because of the cheap mana cost of the freeze spells. Although there isn’t a card like Emperor-Thaurissan to reduce the cost of burn spells during this time, there is still plenty of potential damage that can be done.
The deck that is posted to the right is one that I found from the beta. The list is slightly different from what was played on live because of the nerfs that happened to some of the Mage cards in beta patch 4243.
Frost-Nova: One half of the fabled combo with Doomsayer, this card had its mana cost increased to three after the patch.
Cone-of-Cold: While this card does not see much play today, its old casting cost of three mana made it a prime stall card with the benefit of the neighboring one point of damage to each side.
Blizzard: The smaller, frozen version of Flamestrike was five mana before the patch which gave it very good value when facing a deck like Zoo Warlock.
Leeroy-Jenkins: An auto-include in most decks due to its old four mana cost, Leeroy could be used as a finisher as it was essentially a third Fireball.
Pyroblast: The version of this card before the nerf was an astonishing eight mana. While some Freeze Mage players use one copy of Pyroblast in current decks, using two copies of it before the nerf was common.
Nat-Pagle: Another card to add to the draw engine, Nat Pagle gave the player a chance to draw a card at the end of their turn unlike its current iteration which puts the drawing at the start of the turn.
Arcane-Missiles: Not usually thought of as a Freeze Mage card, on an empty board this is equal to a Frostbolt without the Freeze effect. Arcane Missiles is also good for clearing Zoo Warlock and other minion aggressive decks.
Post Nerfs, Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes
Once the nerfs happened and the mana costs for many of the staple cards went up, lists began to change and new cards were introduced that added value to the already powerful deck. Hearthstones first adventure, Curse of Naxxramas, brought thirty new cards to the game. Blizzard then released the first card expansion, Goblins vs Gnomes, which brought 123 new cards to the game. The one card that made its way into Freeze Mage decks from Curse of Naxxramas was Mad-Scientist. The Freeze Mage lists moved away from multiple copies of Cone of Cold and Pyroblast and added a potential sustained burst in the form of Archmage-Antonidas.
To the right is a decklist from the time period of Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes. There are a few key differences between the earlier decklist from the game before the nerfs and any new cards were released.
Let us take a look at some of the notable cards:
Explosive-Sheep: A card that was introduced in Goblins vs Gnomes that provides cheap area of effect damage that synergizes perfectly with the mage hero power. The two damage that comes from Explosive Sheep goes well with Acolyte-of-Pain as it provides card draw without dealing lethal damage to it.
Mad-Scientist: The perfect card for Freeze Mage and one that would be a two-of staple in the deck until they rotated out when Standard Mode arrived. The effect of Mad Scientist made it so that when he was destroyed you would get a secret into play from your deck. The effect was very important to get Ice-Block on to the field so you would not have to worry about having to draw it and play it for its mana cost. The other benefit of the effect is that it thins your deck out by taking playing a secret straight from your deck. The deck thinning is very important as it helps the player get to the cards he needs faster without worrying about drawing and playing secrets from the hand.
Flamestrike: One copy of this card was used for the four damage area of effect that it provides. Flamestrike is great against aggressive decks like Warlock Zoo and Face Hunter back when it was popular. The four damage is also good against cards like Azure-Drake and Feral-Spirit.
Archmage-Antonidas: A great finishing card for Freeze Mage if you can get value out of him before he is most likely destroyed on your opponents turn. Cheap costing cards like Ice-Lance and Frostbolt were enough to allow the player to add multiple Fireball cards to their hand using the Archmages ability.
Looking Beyond the Mountain
The next adventure to come out, Blackrock Mountain, brought forth another batch of cards including one that is still very important to Freeze Mage decks today. The Grand Tournament expansion was also released which unfortunately did not offer any cards that would make their way into Freeze Mage lists. A very helpful card from Goblins vs Gnomes made its way into Freeze Mage decks that helped their survivability.
The deck to the right is a very similar build to that of the list before Blackrock Mountain and The Grand Tournament came out but a couple new cards that were added.
Let’s take a look at the couple of cards that made it into Freeze Mage during this time:
Emperor Thaurissan: The legendary card that is a staple in a lot of decks is integral in Freeze Mage thanks to its effect that lowers the mana cost of every card in your hand at the end of the players turn. The player wants to have the direct damage cards in their hand to get the most out of the Emperors effect so they can load up on damage after the use of Alexstrasza. Cheaper cards are also good to get more Fireball cards using the effect of Archmage Antonidas. The Emperor effect also can help lower the cost of area of effect cards so that they can be used together if the player is in need of extra damage.
Antique-Healbot: The vastly underrated card when it was released found its way into Freeze Mage decks due to its effect which restores eight health to the play that uses it. The three attack and three defense body may be used to add some extra damage in but the real use for this card is the heal. Having the healing effect in addition to the secrets that Freeze Mage uses gives the deck more time to stall to set up its finishing combos.
There are some other differences that are seen when looking at the decklist. There are no copies of Cone of Cold used anymore and only one Blizzard is used. A second Ice Barrier is added which increases the value of Mad Scientist and adds even more ability to stall games out. Explosive Sheep was also removed from the deck as there were other ways to stall that were more effective.
Exploring for the Old Gods
The two latest content releases that brought new cards are the adventure, League of Explorers, and the expansion, Whispers of the Old Gods. League of Explorers brought a new two part direct damage card that would add even more power to Freeze Mage decks.
Forgotten-Torch: The League of Explorers card that is a part of Freeze decks that is used in many ways. The three damage for three mana is a relatively high cost for its effect but it is good to use for removing three health minions early in the game. The real strength of this card is after its first use it creates a three mana six damage spell that is added to your deck. Two copies of Forgotten Torch in addition to all the burn the deck already has increases its maximum damage potential to new heights.
The deck lists between League of Explorers and the release of Whispers of the Old Gods were similar to versions before Forgotten Torch found a place in the deck. Archmage Antonidas was in and out of lists along with swapping Novice-Engineer for Loot-Hoarder.
Whispers of the Old Gods release came with the Standard Mode that rotated out cards from Curse of Naxxramas and Goblins vs Gnomes. Since Goblins vs Gnomes rotated out of Standard play, the decklists lost out on using Mad Scientist and Antique Healbot. Losing both of these cards has been a blow to the deck but not having Mad Scientist has made a bigger impact and made the deck slightly more vulnerable.
The last decklist shown is reminiscent of ones that are currently being run as there has been no new cards since the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion. The secrets being used are still the same number as before with the Mad Scientists but it is more difficult to rely on them because the player has to draw them to play them.
The draw power in this decklist is its strength as it boasts Loot Hoarders, Novice Engineers, Arcane-Intellect along with a copy of Acolyte of Pain. The removal has mostly stayed the same with the Doomsayer-Frost Nova combo along with one copy of Blizzard and the Flamestrike.
A card that has seen play in the past which can help Freeze Mage dish out even more damage is the mighty dragon of magic, Malygos. Using the powerful effect that adds five spell damage to direct damage cards makes Fireball deal ten damage.
One of the most important cards in Freeze Mage that I have not mentioned yet is Bloodmage-Thalnos. Direct damage cards gain the benefit of the Bloodmages spellpower which can make life totals within reach. Using the Bloodmage as a cycle card is also an effective way to get the cards the player needs if they started with a disappointing hand.
The current versions of Freeze Mage are relying on spells to win the games more so than ever before as seen by previous lists. There are almost no circumstances where Emperor Thaurissan or Alexstrasza survive and are able to attack the following turn so they should be used carefully with a plan in mind to finish the game. The dream scenario is to have use Alexstrasza on turn eight or nine and then finish the opponent off next turn with any combination of Frostbolt, Ice-Lance, Forgotten Torches, and Fireballs.
As this article melts, I wanted to have some closing thoughts on one of my favorite decks. While Freeze Mage hasn’t been the top deck in the life span of Hearthstone, it has consistently been a tier one or two deck and one that is played in most tournaments. The decks dust cost is moderately high but not at the heights of a deck such as Control Warrior or N’Zoth Paladin. The learning curve of the deck is quite high and will take many games played to learn when to use the different key cards.
Freeze Mage has been around since the beta testing period of Hearthstone and does not look like it is going away anytime soon. The deck has not had that many changes after the initial nerfs and most of the core cards will continue to be around as more rotation periods come with the new years. There was some speculation that there would be more nerfs to Freeze Mage cards when Standard Mode came out, but they were not among the cards that were changed.
If you are looking for a fun deck with staying power to play that can defeat an opponent in one turn after much stalling and card draw, Freeze Mage is the deck for you!