There are streamers who are known for their signature decks like Mr. Yagut for Oil Rogue and Fibonacci for Control Warrior but Strifecro’s Grinder Mage is something that he built from scratch and every season he gives the deck a spin on ladder. From the good old times when we had high value Naxxramas and GvG cards to get us a ton of value to a more control oriented build he plays right now, it is a deck that is synonymous with him and he has played it consistently throughout the years in various forms. He has taken the Grinder Mage builds to top Legend ranks very often across the months and today we will take a look at one of the more recent builds he has been playing on stream. A lot of you might be fans of control style decks and while Reno Mage is a good option if you are looking for a control themed Mage deck, it just doesn’t have the right amount of AoE and stall due to the one copy per card limitation.
StrifeCro has been running this build for quite some time and he keeps making changes based on what he faces. For example, he teched in weapon removal in the deck due to a massive number of Shamans in the meta but if the meta does change towards the favor of a non-weapon class you can expect it to be cut out. The deck has 7 minion removal tools and 4 AoEs if you count the Doomsayer combo with Frost Nova. The goal of the deck is to out-value your opponents and then beat them in the lategame. Your primary source of lifegain includes secrets and also Alexstrasza. Without further ado let’s head to the deck and see what it’s all about.
Card Choices and Explanation
Arcane Blast: We run only one copy of Arcane Blast in the deck. It is a good early game removal tool because you can easily take out small targets on turn 2 with it but it also helps you out in the midgame if you combo it with your Azure Drake since the spell gets a bonus damage buff!
Babbling Book: The deck is focused on value and you want to include cards that generate more cards as much as possible. Babbling Book is a good way to start off your early game and you can use it to trade into small minions and use your hero power and spells to clear off small stuff. The randomness of the card is not a detriment to the deck at all and even awkward cards that you would not otherwise want to include in the deck can get value in specific situations including things like Shatter.
Frostbolt: Frostbolt is a flexible removal spell that can also serve as a stalling mechanism late in the game. You can also use it as a finisher late in the game if you go Alexstrasza into some burn spells for game ending results.
Medivh’s Valet: The card is very interesting and it caught my eye early in the Karazhan Meta. My first thought was that you have one of the best secrets in the game in form of Ice Block and it does not get triggered until you take lethal damage. Ice Block alone makes Medivh’s Valet extremely powerful and being able to deal 3 damage and adding a 2/3 on board is really good!
Arcane Intellect: Since you have a lot of situational removal, this card helps you get to your removals and mid game quite easily, Arcane Intellect is one of your primary sources of draw.
Frost Nova: It is a very powerful board control tool with Doomsayer. Sometimes even if you are not able to get your Doomsayer off you can use it for stalling and forcing your opponents to over-commit for better AoE value. The Frost Nova and Doomsayer combo is exceptionally good versus a lot of board heavy decks and it is not very easy to deal with.
Ice Barrier: It is one of your primary sources of life gain in the deck and you can set it up whenever you have free mana for 8 extra health. It allows you to fish for removals and get to your powerful mid game and lategame cards to close out the game. Since Mage as a class does not have heals and neutral heal options are not the best right now, Ice Barrier needs to fit into the deck for valuable armor gain.
Ice Block: It is one of the most powerful secrets in the game and it makes sure you are able to commit more to drawing through your deck and finding removals to clear out the board. It is also very powerful when it comes to activating both copies of your Medivh’s Valet since Ice Block takes time to get activated.
Cabalist’s Tome: A lot of people considered the card to be too slow for constructed play but it seems that it’s just fine. You can think of the cabalists-tome to be similar to Ethereal Conjurer but you get to choose all 3 discovered spells by sacrificing the body. It can help you find answers in sticky situations and also works as fuel for Archmage Antonidas in the lategame. There is no denying the card is slow and loses you tempo, which is why we only run one copy of it in the deck. If you want a faster alternative, try Ethereal Conjurer instead.
Archmage Antonidas: He is one of your main win conditions and can help you seal out games quite easily if you get a good discount on your spells before playing Antonidas. If you are quite ahead on board and health you can choose to use an offensive Alexstrasza and end the game because more often than not your health pool is protected by your secrets anyway.
Firelands Portal: When Firelands Portal first came out in Karazhan people were going gaga about the Arena value of the card enough to ignore how good it could be in constructed and it is fitting into most Mage decks these days. The ability to remove something and add to board presence is a big deal. It is very good at dealing with cards like Thunder Bluff Valiant and Fire Elemental, two popular lategame cards in the game right now.
Flamestrike: One of the old school classics, we run two copies of Flamestrike to make sure we are able to deal with decks that flood the board and going by the meta, there are plenty of them. You can also try Blizzard depending on the meta and your requirements when it comes to board clears.
Acidic Swamp Ooze: With so many early game weapons being popular, Acidic Swamp Ooze is the right choice when it comes to weapon removal over Harrison Jones. By the time you get to Harrison it is often too late due to the aggressively costed weapons being popular in the game. You also have the issue of having a large hand size often, making Acidic Swamp Ooze a better option to avoid overdraw.
Doomsayer: One of your early board control tools that allows you to stall board development on your opponent’s side as well as combo it with Frost Nova to get a better clear in the mid game. Sometimes it serves as a 2 mana heal for 7 by making your opponent force their trades into the minion instead of going face, allowing you to recuperate some health.
Bloodmage Thalnos: One of your early cycle and spell damage tools to get better value out of your cheap spells or you can simply drop on the board to cycle it when you need to get to other cards. The value of the card is often underrated by new players but with 50% representation in decks in the Last Call tournaments that have been held so far and the various levels of synergy that the card offers, you cannot deny the value Bloodmage Thalnos brings to the table.
Elise Starseeker: Elise Starseeker is one of the best ways to finish games in style and once you are able to assert dominance and negate most threats of your opponents you can just drop the Golden Monkey and win the game. You will have no trouble dispatching off your opponent’s minions with the tools you have and extinguish all of their potent resources to be able to safely turn all of your dead cards into legendaries.
Azure Drake: Azure Drake is one of your cycle minions that allows you to build board presence as well as draw a card. It has good synergy with cheap spells and allows you to clear minions easily without needing to use your hero power too much through the one extra spell damage.
Emperor Thaurissan: Emperor Thaurissan works like a value legendary in the deck and it allows you to setup better Archmage Antonidas turns as well to make sure you generate enough Fireballs to burn through your opponent’s health pool more often than not. It’s a great fit since we often have a 5+ hand size, making it valuable to include him in the deck.
Alexstrasza: A card Strifecro has always included in his Grinder lists due to the flexibility of being able to use the card both offensively and defensively in the deck. It’s also a very good follow up to Archmage Antonidas as well if you manage to get enough burn in your hand and then drop Alexstrasza for a 2 turn lethal setup against decks that do not have any heal. While in other matchups you can use it as a comeback mechanism.
Here is an image showcasing what the matchups have been like for me. One of the biggest advantages of the deck is that it’s heavily favored against Shaman, due to the large number of AoEs you have for dealing with their board over and over again.
Mid Range Shaman: It has taken up over 20% of my matchups this season overall and I have had reasonably positive success with the deck against it with a 13-4 score against it. Aggro Shaman has been completely nonexistent for me since the nerfs came into place for obvious reasons.
Hunter: Hunter can be extremely tricky if you are facing Secret decks with Cat Trick and Secretkeeper, things that directly counter a lot of your cards. Mid Range Hunter should be a better matchup than Secret Hunter and are less aggressive.
Warrior: It’s a bad matchup if you are facing Control Warrior because you have a lot of draw and their control tools simply outclass yours in the long game. Again, I faced only Deathrattle Control Warrior on ladder this season so far and some Pirate Warriors. Both of those matchups are quite difficult and you are not very favored to win them.
Warlock: Zoo should be a good matchup but it relies a bit too heavily on you being able to control the board pressure. A turn 5 Frost Nova and Doomsayer is game winning and it’s difficult to lose from that spot but if you are not able to keep their board presence in check then there is little you can do.
Mage: Freeze Mage is an extremely tricky matchup and one of the primary ways to beat them is by taking the game into fatigue since they will almost always draw more than you. You should be very conservative with your draws if you want to win. Tempo Mage has been dependent on early game removal and if you manage to keep their turn 1-3 plays in check you can seal the game from there easily.
These were some of the more popular matchups and other decks have not been that popular to get a good hold on what the matchups should be like. Polymorph is one of the tech cards you should consider including if you are facing decks like Malygos Druid and Mid Range Hunter in place of one of the Babbling Books to get a better winrate against those decks.
Cards you should always keep in your hand include removals and card draw. Here are the basic mulligans for the deck:
- Babbling Book
- Arcane Blast
- Ice Barrier
- Ice Block
- Medivh’s Valet (with good curve and Ice Block in hand)
- Arcane Intellect (if you have cheap removal in hand)
- Acidic Swamp Ooze versus weapon classes
- Frost Nova + Doomsayer versus Warlock
Ladder Experience and Conclusion
It is a fun deck that is particularly effective against the best deck in the game right now – Mid Range Shaman. However, you do sacrifice the ability to beat decks like Control Warrior consistently due to how hard the deck draws through the whole deck. Any control matchup will be hard to win but aggressive decks are all yours for the taking as long as you are able to mulligan properly for early game removal and secrets. All of these games have been played through the ladder reset from Rank 16 to Rank 2 with other non-Mage decks being played in between. Hope you guys have fun with the deck and if you need any help or have queries, let me know in the comments below.