Just for Fun: Arcane Reaver

Hey, guys. It’s RaFive. Today we’re going to look at a midrange Mage deck with serious blowout potential that showcases the awesome power of Fel Reaver.

Introduction

Hey, guys. It’s RaFive. Today we’re going to look at a midrange Mage deck with serious blowout potential that showcases the awesome power of Fel Reaver. With a great mana curve, fun minions from the expansion, and three different ways to win the game, it’s a strong deck on ladder and also a blast to tool around with on a more casual level. Let’s begin!

Overview

Midrange Mage has spiked in popularity post-GvG as professional players like StrifeCro and Brian Kibler have piloted strong, tempo-based mech decks to considerable success over the last few weeks. A big draw for mech Mage is flexibility. You can put a solid list together on the cheap, but you can also slip in higher-end cards like Archmage Antonidas if you have them available. You can tweak the curve higher with cards like Duplicate and Sunwalker or lower and faster with Jeeves. The basic framework — lots of mechs on a well-drafted mana curve — is easy to set up as a skeleton, after which you can tweak and tune in all sorts of nifty ways.

That’s what I’ve done here, starting with the basic StrifeCro/Kibler archetype and molding the rest to enable an aggressive, midrange playstyle with surprises and options aplenty. Archmage Antonidas makes sense with all the Spare Parts, serving as a finisher. A single Unstable Portal keeps your opponent on his toes and gives you the potential to blow your opponent out with superior tempo, without making you dependent on RNG for victory. One copy of Harvest Golem gets changed out for a Flamecannon for better board control, another cheap trigger for Archmage Antonidas, and one less minion for Cabal Shadow Priest to filch. Spare Parts mean plenty of Antonidas targets, and we’re mostly winning through better minions on the board rather than spell damage burst, so one Fireball goes to Loatheb as the ultimate stay-ahead (or set-up) card. Last but most importantly, I’ve gone with Kibler’s inclination to include two copies of Fel Reaver as a powerful win condition that can be either held for the opportune moment or, alternatively, rushed out super early — turn 2 Mechwarper into turn 3 Coin + Fel Reaver usually means game over for your opponent.

The rest of the deck is straightforward and tracks what you’ll doubtless have seen by now on ladder. Mechwarper lets you stay ahead on the mana curve. Cogmaster provides a consistent high-tempo turn 1 play. Clockwork Gnome gives you a Spare Part for better board control or as an Antonidas trigger. Annoy-o-Tron and Snowchugger leech your opponent’s tempo and help protect you from weapons. Goblin Blastmage and Frostbolt softens the board up at crucial points in the earlier game. Piloted Shredder and Harvest Golem sticks through common removal to maintain your board presence. Spider Tank, Tinkertown Technician, and Mechanical Yeti all provide strong, consistent bodies on curve to outperform your opponent’s efficiency and maintain pressure.

How to Play

The basic gameplay for a carefully-curved midrange deck is pretty easy: mulligan to have a strong on-curve play every turn for the first 4-5 turns and play for board control. Minions are preferable to spells on the mulligan.

Consistency on curve is what will win you most of your games, due to your consistent, reliable, powerful draws. This is even more true if you can effectively play a turn ahead by keeping a Mechwarper alive on the field. It’s easy to overextend and then be unable to recover because the deck lacks card draw, so play carefully, but getting your minions out on curve — and then doing whatever it takes to keep them on the board — will generally snowball you into an insurmountable resource advantage. Winning via curve and board should always be your primary strategy.

Failing that, however, Fel Reaver is your other primary win condition. You’ll have drawn into Reaver by turn 4 in half of your games, and if your opponent hasn’t specifically prepared to take an 8/8 down at that point in the game, you’ll typically win. You can generally throw all your other minions into clearing the board the turn you throw a Reaver down, since Reaver is a completely adequate source of pressure all on its own. Don’t put Reaver down unless you feel you have a good shot at winning; it’s an all-in card because of its effect. In fact, since Reaver’s effect doesn’t fatigue you, if you’re in any way ahead, it’s often counterproductive to put Reaver down — better, in most cases, to wait until you’ve baited out every bit of removal (and drawn a few more cards) before reaving your opponent. Never go all in unless you have to or you can afford to.

Archmage Antonidas rounds the deck out by forming an auxiliary win condition that makes use of all those Spare Parts. There’s good synergy with Fel Reaver, here, as well, because Antonidas is a removal magnet that will also generally net you a free Fireball or two so that Reaver hits a board with no answers (and Reaver into Antonidas is an equally strong play if you have spells in hand). Antonidas provides utility and high-end meat that also makes room for us to cut a Fireball for a faster lower end.

Matchups are pretty standard for mech Mage (or, at least, they were around rank 7 where I was playing this list). Midrange decks wilt in the face of mechs unless specifically prepared. Snowchugger and Flamecannon make the deck quite strong versus Warrior. Zoo and Hunter are perennial challenges because they can start faster than you and deny a comeback (Zoo is a bigger threat than Hunter because Hunter’s card advantage will often run out before yours), and although control Priest has one fewer Harvest Golem to steal, it’s still a tough matchup, especially if Priest gets off an early Velen’s Chosen. Paladin can also be a tough matchup because it’s so hard to come back from a board clear with relatively cheap minions and no card draw. All in all, however, your matchups should be close to 50% or better except against Zoo.

Substitutions

The tech cards in this deck are Flamecannon, Unstable Portal, Fireball, Loatheb, and Archmage Antonidas. These are actually all quite flexible depending on your personal playstyle and card collection. The only hard rule I’d give for teching this deck is that if you aren’t running Archmage Antonidas, you should probably be running two copies of Fireball just for the reach and removal potential.

To give you an idea of how flexibly you can tech this deck, in those slots, I myself have at various points tried running Ironbeak Owl, Arcane Intellect, Bloodmage Thalnos, Polymorph, double Azure Drake, and double Mirror Image + double Knife Juggler. I think all of those are potentially solid picks depending on the metagame. Dr. Boom and Troggzor the Earthinator make solid alternative high-end picks as well because of their commanding board presence.

With the strong starts that this deck can achieve with its mana curve, there will be a temptation to fatten the high end of the deck. Do not succumb. The deck can sustain only the two Fel Reavers plus 1-2 more high-end cards. Someone like Ragnaros the Firelord may look tempting, but he’s probably too inconsistent and too expensive to work in the deck. For similar reasons of slowness, I also recommend against Flamestrike, although a single copy of Blizzard, in the right metagame, might provide enough tempo against swarming decks to net you a few wins.

Conclusion

It’s a good time to play Mage. It’s historically been an underrepresented class in Hearthstone with a weak kit, but GvG has made it viable on ladder with a strong midrange presence that curves into scary meta-bending cards like Fel Reaver. Even better, we’re past all the breathless excitement of the first couple weeks of mech Mage, to the point where we can start to tweak and tech the list to suit particular playstyles and matchups. I’ve always loved Mage, and as an F2P player I’m especially thrilled that we now have a new inexpensive core archetype upon which to build nifty new decks. I’m looking forward to taking on a few of your lists on ladder, so get out there and keep building a better metagame!