10 June 2014 - 00:00

Introduction to Hearthstone Heroes: Mage

Dot Esports

Hi again everyone! It occurred to me that things can be rough for newer players, especially those without any prior trading card game (TCG) experience. I remember myself being in this scenario only a few months ago for me. Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to have a background in Magic the Gathering as many of the fundamental concepts translate over nicely. In addition to Magic, various online articles helped accelerate the learning process.

General consensus suggests that new players should get good practice by playing with available cards in the basic set via play mode or against the computer in order to learn the mechanics of the game. Once familiarity with the game is established, arena would then be the next logical step in order to help build the collection. After all, I believe that most people eventually want to play ladder as the competition is generally better and it offers players a chance to be creative by constructing their own decks.

However, most people (myself included) don’t have the patience to acquire every card in the game before starting the ladder climb. Thus, once an acceptable collection has been attained, the deck building process can start earlier than expected.

One of the obvious places to look for viable decks that may cater to your liking is the internet. Yet, there are two possible non-ideal scenarios that may occur. The first scenario is caused by wanting to start the ladder climb earlier. It may turn out that every popular deck you’re considering has some number of legendary and/or epic cards you don’t own.

In the second non-ideal scenario, the decks within your budget represent strategies you don’t envision yourself enjoying. Whether you want to build a new unique deck based on a concept you thought of or lay out the framework for an already existing deck you eventually want to finish, this series of introductory articles aims to help the card selection process when constructing a deck with a specific class. Due to mage being the first introduced class in the game, this first article in the series will be regarding the mage class as well.

Before evaluating the cards of a particular class, one must take into account the class hero ability first. In addition, each card evaluation will contain a short summary of the card’s functionality and list its current applicability in the deck building process.

Hero Ability

The mage hero ability, Fireblast, is one of the biggest draws to playing the class. It allows you to pick off minions with only one remaining health point. Moreover, you can use it on your own minions to activate enrage as well as minion abilities that trigger upon the minion being damage. For this reason, neutral cards such as Amani Berserkerand Acolyte of Painare frequently seen in various mage decks. Overall, Fireblast is very flexible as it is good on both an empty as well as full board state. Finally, it can get past enemy taunt minions for those last few points of damage against an opponent struggling to stabilize.

Arcane Explosion

Basic Cards

Arcane Explosion– Arcane Explosion is a great card for clearing enemy minions with low health. Thus, overall usage of this card would increase if a deck like Murloc were popular in the meta-game. However, the low damage output is generally ineffective against most other decks. Fortunately, many mage decks already consist of multiple minions that increase spell damage. Therefore, Arcane Explosion would garner more value in decks that emphasized spell damage buffs.

Applicability: Low

Arcane Intellect– Arcane Intellect’s role in any mage deck is very straight forward to understand. It provides card advantage. While there are other cards available that may be more efficient at drawing cards (i.e. Acolyte of Pain), Arcane Intellect grants two cards immediately. In the later stages of the game, this provides the mage player with more options since mana is no longer as restrictive as in the early game.

Applicability: Medium

Arcane Missiles– Due to the random number generation (RNG) nature of Arcane Missiles, it may be tough to evaluate the effectiveness of the card. The best usage of the card is against multiple enemy minions with one remaining health. This increases the percentages of the card being a 2-for-1 or even a 3-for-1. However, the card is quite bad against minions with higher health. To mitigate against having awkward moments, Arcane Missiles is best utilized in the early stages of the game and is usually a 1-for-1 removal spell. Moreover, the hero ability helps clean up any remaining minions it may have missed.

Applicability: Medium

Fireball

Fireball– Fireball is the epitome of a good finisher card. It gives you great reach in the later stages of the game by allowing you to deal a whopping 6 damage straight to your opponent to put him at 0 life in an ideal scenario. No amount of taunt minions can stop this. Moreover, it can also be used as an expensive removal spell to clear a problematic enemy minion in the middle stages of the game.

Applicability: High

Flamestrike– Aside from Twisting Nether, Flamestrike is the most comprehensive sweeper in the game. Other than late game legendary minions such as Ragnaros the Firelord, most opposing minions won’t be able to survive the damage output of Flamestrike. Even then, additional spells and minions can be used to deal the remaining points of damage. Moreover, the mage hero ability can help by finishing off any minion with 5 health. The only drawback with Flamestrike is that it is best suited for a control deck and can be a little slow at 7 mana.

Applicability: Medium

Frost Nova– Frost Nova is best utilized in a tempo shell due to the fact that it doesn’t actually kill any minions. Popular strategies in the past involving the card include freeze decks that largely ignore the opposing board and eventually finish off the opponent with direct damage spells.

Applicability: Low

Frostbolt

Frostbolt– Frostbolt is one of the most versatile cards in the mage arsenal due to the fact that it can function as a removal spell against smaller minions while also being able to deal the last few points of damage to your opponent. There will be instances where Frostbolt can delay an enemy attack, which allows friendly minions to squeeze in additional damage. The freeze component of the spell can be relevant for turning on Ice Lanceas well in more aggressive decks.

Applicability: High

Mirror Image– Similar to Frost Nova, Mirror Image does not actually deal any damage. Its purpose is to shield enemy minions from friendly minions such as Mana Wyrm. A very popular line of play when having the coin is to play Mana Wyrm, the coin, and Mirror Image on turn 1. This gives the mage player a 3/3 minion on turn 1 that can potentially output a ton of damage. Unlike Frost Nova however, Mirror Image only costs 1 mana, which makes it much more flexible.

Applicability: Medium

Polymorph– Polymorph is the mage class's hard removal spell. At 4 mana, it is slightly more mana intensive than Hex. However, the hero ability can be used the same turn to finish off the 1/1 sheep. This somewhat makes up for the difference in mana. In most instances, Polymorph is best utilized in a control deck since it can easily take care of those late game legendary bombs from your opponent. Due to its reactive nature, Polymorph can often be an awkward draw if used in a more aggressive deck.

Applicability: Medium

Water Elemental– Water Elemental is arguably one of the best 4 drop minions in the game due to its stats. The combined attack and health of 9 is reminiscent of Chillwind Yeti, the gold standard of value. Moreover with 6 health, it is very durable and probably going to be at least a 2-for-1 in most cases. The reoccurring freeze ability is also very good against weapon-wielding heroes. In addition, the freeze ability can potentially be used in conjunction with Ice Lance once again to finish off your opponent.

Applicability: High

Cone of Cold

Common Cards

Cone of Cold– Cone of Cold is an Arcane Explosion tacked onto a Frost Nova. As a result, the best usage of Cone of Cold will be in scenarios similar to where Arcane Explosion and Frost Nova are effective. This includes a meta-game dominated by Murloc and in tempo strategies that don’t care too much about maintaining board control.

Applicability: Low

Ice Barrier– Ice Barrier is essentially a life-gain spell similar to Healing Touchthat does not impact the board aside from making your opponent guess what secret you played. However, it can function as a poor man’s Ice Block. The possible homes for Ice Barrier include secret-based decks and slow control decks that really need the life gain to stabilize.

Applicability: Low

Ice Lance– Ice Lance has the opportunity to deal more damage than Frostbolt while costing 1 mana less as long as the target is frozen. This requires the deck designer to either include more freeze effects or more draw effects (to find complementary freeze cards) in order to optimize Ice Lance. Ice Lance can often be found in aggressive decks that use it as another cheap direct damage spell.

Applicability: Low

Mana Wyrm

Mana Wyrm– Mana Wyrm is an incredibly efficient 1 drop minion that can often be a 3/3 on turn 1 with the coin. Moreover, the mage class has some of the best spells in the game so its inclusion in a deck wouldn’t be contingent on playing more narrow and possibly sub-optimal mage cards. The 3 health also makes Mana Wyrm more resilient to removal spells in the early phases of the game. In most cases, it will generally trade up while having already dealt the opponent a significant amount of damage if played on turn 1.

Applicability: High

Mirror Entity– Mirror Entity forces your opponent to play weaker minions first in order to not get blown out by the card. However, good players should be able to do this in most cases. It definitely has more value in a secret deck as Kirin Tor Magehelps play it for free. In a meta-game with many large giants and Twilight Drake (i.e. hand lock), Mirror Entity definitely increases in value as well.

Applicability: Low

Sorcerer's Apprentice– Sorcerer’s Apprentice does a really good impression of Wild Growth. Because many of the cards in a mage deck are often spells, Sorcerer’s Apprentice actually often outperforms its Wild Growth counterpart. Moreover, the reduction in cost allows the mage player to deal huge bursts of direct damage to the opponent to finish the game. Cost reduction minions such as Pint-Sized Summoneroften have mediocre stats but that is not the case here. Despite the cost reduction ability, Sorcerer’s Apprentice is still a 3/2 minion for only 2 mana.

Applicability: High

Blizzard

Rare Cards

Blizzard– Blizzard is an Arcane Explosion tacked onto a Cone of Cold. However, another way to view Blizzard is that it is a Frost Nova tacked onto a Consecration. The extra damage makes Blizzard more attractive as a sweeper when compared to Arcane Explosion or Cone of Cold. Therefore, Blizzard fits better in a mid-range or control deck as opposed to a tempo deck. When factoring in minions that increase spell damage and Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s mana reduction, Blizzard may often be used as an alternative to or in conjunction with Flamestrike due to the lower casting cost.

Applicability: Medium

Counterspell– Counterspell does as its name states; counter a spell. Anyone who has ever played Magic the Gathering can tell you how powerful this effect is and the distinction this card has by having that name. Moreover, one of the strongest plays a mage player can make is a turn 2 Kirin Tor Mage off a coin into Counterspell. This puts the mage player far ahead and is likely to allow Kirin Tor Mage to attack at least twice for 8 points of damage. As mentioned above in the commentary of several other secret spells, this card gains additional value when used in a secret-based deck.

Applicability: Medium

Ethereal Arcanist– Ethereal Arcanist has an obvious home in a secret-based deck. Following up a turn 3 Kirin Tor Mage with a Ethereal Arcanist on turn 4 has the potential of breaking the game open. Moreover, Ethereal Arcanist can continue to grow as long as the secret is not triggered. As a result, Ice Blockhas great synergy with Ethereal Arcanist.

Applicability: Low

Kirin Tor Mage– Kirin Tor Mage is the primary reason to want to build a secret deck. Even in the absence of a secret to play for free, Kirin Tor Mage is still a 4/3 minion for only 3 mana. As stated above, one of the most powerful turn 2 plays a mage player can make is using the coin to play Kirin Tor Mage into Counterspell.

Applicability: Medium

Vaporize– Vaporize is a good counter to decks running large minions such as giants and drakes (i.e. hand lock). However, these decks tend to be control decks and therefore would usually attack your minions first to establish board control before attacking you. One way to mitigate against this is by playing Ethereal Arcanist in conjunction as he would continue to grow each turn.

Applicability: Low

Ice Block

Epic Cards

Ice Block– Ice Block is best utilized in strategies that don’t care about board control because it can outperform Ice Barrier by negating more than 8 damage on a single turn. An old strategy featuring the card involved using it as protection before attacking with Molten Giantand ending the game late with Pyroblast. For this reason, many people felt Ice Block should have been “fixed” instead of Pyroblast in a previous Hearthstone patch. Once again, Ice Block has an increased value when incorporated into a secret deck for reasons stated previously.

Applicability: Medium

Pyroblast– Pyroblast functions as a de-facto finisher. This means that any deck wanting to run Pyroblast would need to manufacture at least 20 points of damage to the opponent before being able to play this card. Due to the high mana cost, it is probably wise to include at most 1 copy of the card in any deck.

Applicability: Low

Spellbender– Spellbender is comparable to and should probably be used in conjunction with Counterspell in a secret deck. Though Spellbender is more narrow in its applications (does not protect your minions against sweepers), it actually helps protect your minions against spot removal better than Counterspell because your opponent cannot trigger Counterspell by playing the coin or an otherwise irrelevant spell. Spellbender can also be effective in a meta-game dominated by friendly buff spells (i.e. miracle rogue, Inner Firecombo, etc.).

Applicability: Medium

Archmage Antonidas

Legendary Card

Archmage Antonidas– Archmage Antonidas possibly generates an endless stream of Fireball cards. Due to his mana cost of 7, he is fairly flexible and can fit in various mage archetypes. With that said, he probably fits best in a control shell as the sheer card advantage generated should allow you to win any game that goes late. He may also be very good in a secret deck due to the high density of spells.

Applicability: Medium

Conclusion

I hope this introduction to mage has been helpful. I look forward to any suggestions as I hope to improve upon this article for my druid (next due to alphabetical order) iteration. Thanks!

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