Camzeee here with another in-depth deck guide. This time, it’s the classic Freeze Mage. Having not played Freeze for a few seasons, I picked it up again at the end of last season and ended up getting Legend with it. The deck has gotten even better since then with the introduction of [card]Emperor Thaurissan[/card] and I now consider it one of the best decks in the game. However, it does come with a few caveats.
In my opinion, Freeze Mage is one of the most skill intensive decks in the game. Combo decks have traditionally been some of the more difficult decks to play since they require a deep understanding of opponents and their potential plays. Freeze Mage ups this ante by having little to no board presence and nothing but stall in the early game. Their final survival mechanism is also finicky to use and fraught with danger, and their alternate win condition is also combo oriented.
However, if you can master the deck, it is one of the most powerful in the game and has one of the best overall match-up percentages in Hearthstone. At a glance, it’s strong against Paladin, Mech Mage, Priest, Hunter, Warlock (both Hand and Zoo) and Rogue. That’s six out of nine classes that are favorable match-ups.
Only Warrior (and mainly the Control variant) is definitively favored against Freeze Mage. Druid and Shaman are very draw dependent match-ups. Druid is about even or slightly unfavored because of the heavy ramp and the [card]Force of Nature[/card] + [card]Savage Roar[/card] combo. Aggressive Shamans meanwhile can pour a ton of damage on before you can start shutting down their board and end the game early.
If playing the percentages and unleashing big spell combos appeals to you, Freeze Mage should be your deck of choice. And I’m going to show you how to win with it.
[cardinsert card=”blizzard” float=”left’]
Before we get into the details, it’s important to understand how this deck works and how you should be planning your turns out. This is not a Zoo deck where you play your minions whenever you have them. Choosing WHEN to play your cards matters more in this deck than others. As a rule, use as few resources as you can to stay alive. Freeze Mage often has a desperate feel to it since it frequently ends games on 1 hp but as long as you know your outs and how you’re going to win the game, you’re still in it.
The general gameplan goes like this: turns 1-4 you’re drawing cards and playing [card]Mad Scientist[/card]s/Secrets. That’s it. [card]Ice Barrier[/card]s are great early on to keep your life total high and buy you time. Meanwhile, try to slow your opponents’ momentum in the early game with smart [card]Fireblast[/card]s and remember to keep damage down. The earliest you can realistically clear your opponents’ board is turn 5 with [card]Doomsayer[/card] + [card]Frost Nova[/card]. This is the start of the mid-game where this deck gets its name.
Mid-game is all about freeze. You should aim to freeze their board consistently with Frost Nova and Blizzard in the mid-game to set you up for the late-game burst. The beauty of Freeze Mage is that it often needs just one card – [card]Frost Nova[/card] or [card]Blizzard[/card] to completely immobilize your opponent. This gives you time to draw into your win conditions.
Late-game is where the fun begins. By this point you should have gathered enough cards to burst for large amounts of damage as well as setup [card]Ice Block[/card] to prevent lethal. Putting it all together is the tricky part. [card]Alexstrasza[/card] is often the key card in this deck and signals the start of the late-game since it represents up to 15 damage up front. That’s a great start in terms of damage and you can often burst your opponent down from there in just one turn with combinations of [card]Fireball[/card], [card]Frostbolt[/card] and [card]Ice Lance[/card]. However, beyond that, you actually only have a very limited number of ways to close out the game.
Here is all the damage in the deck:
Seems awfully small right? This alone is all the damage you have (discounting the measly damage from your early-game minions). Therefore, you must be very careful when you choose to use any of these cards. Sometimes it is necessary to use some of your burn spells for removal, but it should only be a last resort or if you have enough left over to still ensure lethal.
I’ll be going over setting up for lethal in a later section but for now, look at that narrow list and come to terms with the fact that unlike some other decks, you have a much smaller window to win and it is possible to end up in a situation that is entirely unwinnable if you’re not careful.
Archmage Antonidas represents your alternate win condition when your raw spells aren’t enough. He is a potential source of infinite [card]Fireball[/card]s but is tough to activate effectively. He’s become much easier to use effectively thanks to [card]Emperor Thaurissan[/card] and is now an invaluable asset to the deck where he was once a luxury. More on him in the card analysis coming up.
[toc]Card by Card Analysis[/toc]
2x [card]Ice Lance[/card] – Two copies of this card are mandatory for the burst finish. These are obviously best used for lethal damage and in conjunction with Frostbolt. They are extra potent with the inclusion of Thaurissan, since these get discounted to 0 mana. Very rarely will I use an Ice Lance on a minion, but sometimes it’s the correct play if you desperately need to stave off lethal and can draw into something to end the game with.
2x [card]Frostbolt[/card] – These are amazing cards and can setup Ice Lance, deal lethal damage and also be used as 2 mana removal for high priority targets like [card]Knife Juggler[/card]. I can’t imagine a Mage deck without a pair of these.
1x [card]Bloodmage Thalnos[/card] – This card is a very underrated legendary and it is at its best in spell combo decks like this one. Depending on the draw, this can be used to cycle early on if you need card draw or saved for a devastating spell barrage.
2x [card]Mad Scientist[/card] – This card is one of only two cards you want in your opening hand every game. It is effectively a 2 mana secret with a 2/2 body attached. That’s phenomenal value and the earlier you can draw and play these, the better.
2x [card]Doomsayer[/card] – This is one of my favorite cards. It can be used in a number of creative ways to stall and create difficult situations for your opponent. It’s great combo’ed with Frost Nova or Blizzard and it’s also the best card to play into a Mech Mage’s [card]Mirror Entity[/card]. There’s also a higher level use for it against [card]Sylvanas Windrunner[/card].
Sylvanas is a great card but she’s a liability against Freeze Mage because of Doomsayer. You can play Doomsayer and then Fireball the Sylvanas to give Doomsayer to your opponent, thus instantly wiping his board. An alternative is to Blizzard first and then Frostbolt Sylvanas after, gifting the Doomsayer. You can be quite creative with it but essentially, you should look to give Doomsayer to your opponent via Sylvanas’ Deathrattle.
1x [card]Explosive Sheep[/card] – This card is another board wipe and can help ease Freeze Mage’s often awkward turn 4. It helps big time against Paladin and his little swarm of 1/1s, and is another great card to gift your opponent through Mirror Entity.
1x [card]Novice Engineer[/card] – This card is the only true flex slot in this deck. I decided to go with Novice for the additional draw instead of another board clear. I personally prefer Engineer over Loot Hoarder because of the instant draw ability. Having the card drawn first is far more beneficial in a desperate late-game situation where you’re either searching for lethal or looking for Ice Block.
2x [card]Arcane Intellect[/card] – Card draw makes up almost half the deck, and this is the purest form of it. It’s also one of only two cards I keep in every mulligan alongside [card]Mad Scientist[/card]. It’s an invaluable card that is key to this deck’s win condition.
2x [card]Ice Barrier[/card] – This card is an 8 health heal and that’s exactly what we need in the early game. It’s also a secret triggered by Mad Scientist so that gives it additional value. Always play Barrier before Block because later in the game, your opponent can bypass Barrier through spells whereas earlier on, he has to attack face with minions to trigger it.
2x [card]Ice Block[/card] – The deck’s last line of defense and a must-have. This card is what allows Freeze Mage the time it needs to burst for lethal. It’s best when triggered through Scientist early on, but is actually better in the end-game to have in hand so you can set it up manually. Be wary that Ice Block does not prevent damage taken on your turn. Fatigue therefore is a death sentence when you’re at 1 hp and a Hunter’s [card]Explosive Trap[/card] can also kill you through the block. Sadly, [card]Kezan Mystic[/card] single-handedly ruins Freeze Mage because stealing this also removes your last hope of surviving.
2x [card]Frost Nova[/card] – Freeze! This card is quintessential freeze and is great at stalling and keeping damage from coming in. If possible, try to combo this with Doomsayer to clear the board (unless they have Silence). It’s also a solid play to use this on turn 6 and setup Ice Block at the same time.
2x [card]Acolyte of Pain[/card] – This card represents additional card draw and is also one of the most misplayed cards in the deck. Against 90% of classes, this should not be played prior to turn 5 where you can ping it and draw a card immediately. Always try to extract at least two cards from it. The only match-up where it’s advised to play it early is against Priest. Almost all Priests run [card]Cabal Shadow Priest[/card] which can straight up steal your Acolyte and deny you draw. Play it earlier against a Northshire Cleric for instance to get those draws before they get stolen from you.
2x [card]Fireball[/card] – Burn! This card is often used for lethal burst damage but is actually not limited to that role. I know a lot of players who stubbornly refuse to play this even when there’s a game-ending threat on the board like an opponents’ Thaurissan. You have two copies and potentially more from Antonidas. If the circumstances dictate, use one of these to prevent your opponent from building a board that you have no hope of removing. However, it is indeed better to save it for all but the most dangerous minions because it is one of your few burn spells and you may run out of damage if you use these too frivolously.
2x [card]Blizzard[/card] – AoE freeze and damage is perfect for stalling. This card shuts down your opponents’ board for at least one turn and can help thin out the threats. I have considered dropping one for a [card]Cone of Cold[/card] but ultimately decided against it since it can be relied upon to shut down the whole board.
1x [card]Emperor Thaurissan[/card] – New from Blackrock Mountain, this card has breathed new life into Freeze Mage. It is fantastic for lowering the cost of your spells and making Antonidas plays more accessible. It also enables burst that is straight up unfair. Try to play this on an empty board wherever possible, and if not, save it for when it can discount Ice Lances and Frostbolts. Discounting those two spells makes the biggest difference to your end-game burst. Often times, I will refrain from playing it until I can ensure it lowers the cost of key cards that can setup lethal.
1x [card]Flamestrike[/card] – This card is perfect for clearing large boards from Zoo or Grim Patron Warrior. It hits hard and can reset the board. One copy is enough because drawing two early on when you need more dynamic cards can lose you the game.
1x [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card] – I could write a whole article about Antonidas alone. In this deck, he serves as an alternate win condition by generating additional Fireballs for burst. The classic activation for him is Antonidas > Frostbolt > Ice Lance on turn 10. However, it’s now easier to draw a few Fireballs out of him from Emperor such as Antonidas > Frost Nova > Ice Block or a combination of the Ice spells. Whenever you play him, try to draw at least TWO Fireballs out of him. If you’re playing him as an alternate win condition, you’ll need the additional burn.
1x [card]Alexstrasza[/card] – The card that is forever doomed to be at the bottom of your deck. Just kidding. Alexstrasza is often the one card that you need more than any other in order to win as Freeze Mage. If the board state is good and you have the activation for Antonidas, you can start burning your opponent from full. However, in most match-ups, you’ll be hard pressed and need the instant damage from Alexstrasza’s Battlecry to get opponents into kill range. You should almost always Alexstrasza your opponent while you have an Ice Block up. This gives you a turn to regroup, forces him to both pop your block and deal with Alex, and leaves you in a far more comfortable position. If you’re playing some extremely aggressive decks, you may have to Alex yourself, but this should be a last resort situation rather than the norm. My biggest tip for playing her though is to draw her. So many games have been lost by lousy draws where she never appears.
1x [card]Pyroblast[/card] – Ten damage to face is often exactly what you need to finish with. I like to use Pyroblast as the final blow since it’s often tough to blow 10 mana on a card while not affecting the board. It wins games for you and I feel it’s necessary to ensure consistent finishes. I’ve seen decks without it, but I feel more comfortable knowing that somewhere in my deck there’s 10 damage sitting there that my opponent can’t block.
[toc]Advanced Tips and Strategy[/toc]
I want to go over some in-depth strategies for Freeze Mage. I consider the deck one of the most difficult in the game because the slightest mistake in sequencing or hand management can spell defeat. Here are some tips for playing the deck separated by stage of the game.
[cardinsert card=”arcane-intellect” float=”right”]
- Draw Cards – It’s vitally important that you get some card draw going because this deck cannot function without drawing its key cards. Every card you draw gets you closer to having that lethal spell damage combo or Alexstrasza or that vital Ice Block 4 turns from now.
- Don’t play your Acolyte on 3 – I’ve said this earlier on, but in all but the rarest circumstance should you play your Acolyte of Pain on turn 3. The reason for this is that it often only draws one card if you play it out undrawn and that’s just not acceptable and will cripple you later in the game.
- Consider playing Doomsayer on an empty board – This is a nuance play that is great in the right hands. Doomsayer is sometimes very strong when played out on its own because it stalls your opponent out for a full turn which can give you breathing room to play your tempo losing cards like Arcane Intellect.
[cardinsert card=”emperor-thaurissan” float=”right”]
- Defend your life total – Mid-game is where a lot of Freeze Mage games are won and lost. It’s very important that you plan ahead so that you preserve your life total as much as possible over a few turns. For example, Frost Nova might be tempting against a Face Hunter on turn 5 with a few minions, but playing an Ice Barrier might be a wiser choice since it’ll stall for the same amount of damage and the Nova can shut down more damage next turn.
- Plan your win condition – By turn 6 or 7, you should have an idea how your late-game is going to play out. Ideally, you have Alexstrasza in hand and have a safe way to play Ice Block. However, this is often not the case, and you have to think about alternatives. There are situations where you have a ton of damage in your hand but no minions to play or few stall mechanics. If that’s the case, you may have no choice but to try and burst your opponent down from full and hope he doesn’t have heals. Archmage Antonidas is also a nice alternative win condition. If you can get two activations out of him, that should give you enough damage to burst an opponent down from full provided you manage to stay alive. In the mid-game you should be planning ahead how you’re going to go about finishing your opponent and try to get maximum value out of your freeze and stall mechanics.
- Play Emperor Thaurissan wisely – Thaurissan can be tough to play out if you’re under a lot of pressure. That said, it’s important to preserve him for play when he’ll discount some valuable cards. The best time to play him is after a Doomsayer board clear, but that’s often not going to happen with all the silence running about. If you’re under no real threat and have a thin hand, it’s likely that your opponent has a bunch of removal spells instead of minions to play so saving Thaurissan for a later turn and drawing cards instead is a superior line of play.
[cardinsert card=”alexstrasza” float=”right”]
- Alexstrasza your opponent – Freeze Mage is the ultimate go big or go home deck. There’s no in-between and you have a narrow window to win. Choosing not toAlexstrasza your opponent may keep you alive another turn, but it also significantly decreases the chance of you winning. For instance, usingAlexstrasza on yourself to stave off a Druid Force Roar combo is a horrible decision because you have no real way to fight for board control and will lose to it anyway in subsequent turns. The correct line is to play to win, risk the combo and be aggressive.
- The only match-up where it’s frequently correct to use a defensive Alexstrasza is against Face Hunter. Face Hunter often loses its board control over time and ends up hero powering every turn hoping to draw into charge minions or Kill Command. The body of Alex is also a threat to a Face Hunter since it has no damage to spare for removal.
- Play your spells carefully – I’ve seen my fair share of horror misplays where players use the Ice spells out of order and lose lethal damage. Remember to play Frostbolt before Ice Lance! Be sure to also calculate your maximum damage. Sometimes, you have more than you think you do thanks to the Spellpower boost from Bloodmage Thalnos. The opposite is also possible where you have less than you think. That’s a lot, lot worse, so be thorough on your math.
- Plan your multi-turn lethals expecting heals – A lot of decks currently play at least one or two heals. Druids have [card]Ancient of Lore[/card], Paladin with [card]Lay on Hands[/card], Priest with [card]Holy Fire[/card] and [card]Antique Healbot[/card] is also a frequent inclusion in mid-range decks. When you aim to burst your opponent down, expect a heal or two and don’t go absolutely all in to win right away when you can play safer and use a few spells that get you just in range or allow a safe Archmage Antonidas turn.
- Play around Loatheb – I’ve been told you can’t play around Loatheb, but I beg to differ. You absolutely can play around it as long as you know it’s a possibility. A good player will save Loatheb for a turn where you desperately need to play a spell. Here’s my example of how you can play around it:
In this situation, you’ve already used your Alexstrasza to set your opponents’ health at 15. The secret in play is Ice Block. Your opponent is a Shaman who rarely runs any healing so you can safely burst over two turns. You have two options here. You can either use your burn spells in Fireball and/or Frostbolt with an additional Frost Nova on top to disable the board or you could Pyroblast for 10 to face.
I would argue that the best play here is to Pyroblast your opponent rather than play your small spells. The reasoning is that Pyroblast allows you to win next turn if they play Loatheb. Fireball to face is still possible even through a Loatheb for lethal. Whereas, the other play can leave you in ruin if you’re relying on Pyroblast finishing the game and it gets its cost bumped to an unplayable 15 from Loatheb.
If you use the other method, it looks more secure in that you get to freeze their board, but the truth is, it’s far easier for Shaman to deal 3 damage to pop the block and play Loatheb than it is for them to survive a lone Fireball. Any healing at all say from Healbot scuppers both strategies, but at least this way you save your Frostbolt in case you topdeck Ice Lance which gives you enough reach for lethal.
To win the game, you’re going to need a fair amount of burst damage. Sadly, unless you have a really good hand, 15 damage to burst a hero down after Alexstrasza is hard to do, so you will likely have to do it over two or even three turns. The burst issue is helped by Emperor Thaurissan, but there are many games where you don’t draw him and the clock is ticking on you ending the game before your opponent. Here are the most common spell combinations you have and how much damage they do. Most of these are obviously stronger after Alexstrasza has been played or your opponent has tapped himself into lethal range.
Bloodmage Thalnos + Fireball + Frostbolt + Ice Lance + Ice Lance = 21 damage
This is the best burst you can put together with this deck minus Emperor Thaurissan shenanigans. It’s tough to gather all of these cards together but if you do, this burst is unreal and will almost certainly win you the game.
Fireball + Frostbolt + Ice Lance > Pyroblast = 13 + 10 damage
This is a multi-turn lethal and probably the most common one you’re going to employ to win games. Gathering the three Mage damaging spells over 9 turns is pretty easy and after an Alexstrasza, this initial burst drops your opponent to 2 health. This means that even an [card]Antique Healbot[/card] does not put him out of range of a Pyroblast finish.
This combo also has the added benefit of having 3 mana left over from the first burst which enables you to put up a new Ice Block if your opponent was able to pop your first one.
Archmage Antonidas + Frostbolt + Ice Lance = 7 damage + 2 Fireballs
This is your sustain finish. If you need additional burn spells against a Paladin or Warrior, this is the way you’re going to get more without the help of Thaurissan. It’s a great activator, does damage and puts out a threat that must be removed.
Emperor Thaurissan Combos
The Emperor has spawned a whole new set of combinations available in Freeze Mage, and some of the burst you can get is just incredible. Here are some that are possible to pull off using just one discount. Getting more than one discount from a Thaurissan should be an automatic win for you if you have even just a few cards in hand.
Pyroblast + Frostbolt + Ice Lance + Ice Lance = 21 damage
Even just one Ice Lance out of this combo gets you 17 damage. The burst from Thaurissan is so potent in Freeze Mage because discounting a 1 mana card into a 0 mana one is game-breaking. The Ice Lances represent 8 damage for free if they both get the discount!
Fireball + Fireball + Frostbolt + Ice Lance + Ice Lance = 23 damage + 3 mana left over for a secret
If you’re fortunate enough to have a good number of your burn spells in hand when Thaurissan procs, you can pull off combos like this one. This is devastatingly good and impossible to play against.
Bloodmage Thalnos + Fireball + Fireball + Frostbolt + Frostbolt + Ice Lance + Ice Lance = 32 damage otk
I’ve never been able to pull this off, but this is the ultimate spell combo in the deck. 32 unstoppable damage that goes through Taunt. This is the stuff of dreams for you and nightmares for your opponent. Good luck pulling it off!
[toc]Match-ups & Mulligans[/toc]
For detailed match-ups and mulligans, check out the second part of the series: Freeze Mage Advanced Guide.
Thanks for reading the guide all the way through! It took me a solid week to write everything up and I feel I’ve done it justice. However, if there are questions you still may have or any feedback you’d like to leave me, I’ll be on hand to answer and respond to all of them in the comments below.
Next up, I’m working on a unique Dragon deck so keep your eyes peeled for that in the near future!
I am a multi legend-ranked player with Level 60 heroes for every class. My favorite card in Hearthstone is Lord Jaraxxus (gold of course!) and I’m also an arena infinite player with over 800 arenas completed.