Mage is one of the best classes in Standard at the moment and represents a strong percentage of the meta at higher ranks. Here’s a look at a couple of decks you should play—or play around—on your way to Legend this month.
Burn Mage gathers and maintains a resource advantage over its opponent through card advantage and removal, before ending the game with Medivh, the Guardian or Alexstraza. Medivh is a must-answer threat that provides additional board pressure over the next several turns. Alexstraza provides a sizeable threat and lowers your opponent’s life total to 15, where a Pyroblast and another burn spell are enough to end the game. Ice Block and Ice Barrier buy you time to reach your late game threats. Arcanologist accesses them early in the game and creates more explosive draw potential later in the game. Babbling Book, Kabal Courier, and Arcane Intellect keep your hand stocked with resources to reach the late game and outlast your opponent. A robust board removal package, topped by Flamestrike, eases the pressure on your life total.
Burn Mage is the more flexible of the two Mage lists. George “Georgec” Connoly plays a Polymorph, Harrison Jones, and adds a second copy of both Ice Barrier and Volcanic Potion for the aggro matchup in his June Legend list. Polymorph is a clean answer to troublesome minions. Harrison Jones halts any generated advantage from an opponent’s Medivh in the mirror match and provides additional value in the Warrior, Shaman, and Paladin matchups. Muzahidul “Muzzy” Islam plays a Counterspell over the Ice Barrier for its increased impact in the mirror and other attrition-based matchups. Both players tech in an Eater of Secrets for the mirror match, with smaller applications against Secret Mage, Murloc Paladin, and the occasional Secret Hunter. Eating your opponent’s Ice Block changes the landscape of the game and puts it heavily in your favor.
Your opening hand, the tech cards you choose to play, and the matchup largely influence how you conduct your turns. Against slower archetypes, you want to pressure your opponent early with Mana Wyrm and Arcanologist to set up an effective Medivh or Alexstraza on curve. Against aggressive archetypes your gameplan is largely reactive until the late game, so identifying what you need to react to and its optimal reaction is key. All Mage openings are similar—Mana Wyrm, Arcanologist—and playing an Ice Block on curve may trick your opponent into playing around a Mirror Entity or Counterspell. Medivh, Alexstraza, and Pyroblast are effectively dead draws until late game. They are the cards that will most often win you the game, but do nothing sitting in your opening hand. When you feel you have control of the game, an Ice Block up, and your opponent low on cards—then play Medivh or Alexstraza and turn the corner.
Secret Mage utilizes Kirin Tor Mage in conjunction with the secrets Counterspell and Mirror Entity to create a tempo advantage over the opponent and leverage it to victory. This deck wants to play two cards a turn and launches to a quick start with Kirin Tor Mage into a zero cost Secret. Mirror Entity maintains the board state in your favor. Counterspell taxes your opponent’s resources, requiring him to spend a spell before interacting with your board or furthering his own game plan. Arcanologist ensures you have a Secret to pair with Kirin Tor Mage and thins your deck, creating more explosive draw potential later in the game. Every Secret played decreases the cost of Kabal Crystal Runner and allows you to develop the minion earlier and continue to pressure your opponent’s resources and life total. The standard Mage burn package pushes through the last points of damage to end the game.
Secret Mage wants to play two cards a turn, making it very resource hungry. Arcane Intellect keeps your hand stocked with action. Babbling Book gives you a spell as well as provides board presence. Mirror Entity and Firelands Portal leave you with a minion to continue to apply pressure. Primordial Glyph offers limited spell selection at a discount. You can find an additional burn spell to finish your opponent or discover a spell outside of your deck the opponent won’t expect for the potential blowout. If you fall behind in the late game, Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End can stabilize the board, draw cards, and regain life.
Pressuring your opponent early is essential to this deck’s success. Mana Wyrm, followed by Arcanologist, then Kirin Tor Mage and a Secret, is one of the deck’s strongest openings. Use your burn spells as minion removal to protect your threats as needed, but keep in mind the context of the game. With more mana at his disposal later in the game, your opponent will be able to match your multiple plays a turn, and your tempo advantage will depreciate. Keep track of the resources remaining in your deck, do the math, and play to your outs.