A little while back (last season) I wrote about a fantastically aggressive Mage deck that I called “Sorry Not Sorry”. This deck took me from rank five to legend in a relatively short amount of time and allowed me to finish well in a lot of small tournaments. Since that time I have moved on to testing a lot of different decks, but I still believe the deck has a strong place within the current metagame. As a result, and since there have been a large number of requests, I have decided to do a more formal write-up on the deck to go along with the videos I posted. This will cover the card choices, matchups and mulligan guides for the most popular decks in the metagame (including changes for the upcoming nerf).
Note: One Ironbeak Owl has replaced the Arcane Missiles from the original list
Instead of going over each individual card (since you can see that in my video) I am just going to do a quick overview of how the deck works and how exactly you want to set up your plays. The general rule of the deck is to do as much damage as possible. This varies from match to match (which will be laid out below) but for the most part the rule of thumb is to always try to push damage through.
The deck’s curve is built to start out with fast creatures and end strong in a flurry of spells. This is done with two opening combos in mind. Undertaker into any other deathrattle, which usually allows you to snowball out of control, or Mana Wyrm into Mirror Image. You want to aggressively mulligan for these cards, which will allow you to push for early damage and then end the game with your spells. Since turn five or six is when large taunts (Sludge Blecher) start coming down, you usually want to be in a position where you can finish off your opponent with Frostbolts, Ice Lances and Fireballs by then.
The most important part of this deck is to always remember how much damage you have available to you. What I mean by this is, never waste Frostbolts for damage early (since they are the only way to trigger Ice Lance) and always get your creatures in for damage before taunts start coming down.
Many times on my push for Legend I would play Leeroy just to get six damage before my opponent could drop a large taunt. This kind of mentality is not usually how people think, but trading and waiting for your opponent to move is not how you want to approach each game. Force your opponent to react to you, and always be aware when you can sneak in damage with your charge creatures. “Next turn he could play x taunt creature” is the kind of mindset you want to have along with “Ok, I have x damage in my hand, what turn can I end the game?”.
Nerf Notes: With the impending nerf coming I am going to try to find room for one more Ironbeak Owl into this list. Honestly, Ironbeak is usually a card you don’t want to see. It doesn’t do damage and puts almost no pressure on your opponent. However, due to the fact that Hunter is most likely going to drop from the metagame (at least for a little while) Druid, Midrange Shaman and Control Warrior are all probably going to go up in play. For these matchups you really want a way to push through taunts, and the owl does this better than any other card available to Mage.
Also, in regards to Leeroy Jenkins going up to five mana, he will still be a key component for this deck. While the nerf basically eliminates him from Miracle Rogue, aggro decks are still happy to pay five mana for a fireball. Leeroy is just more pressure and adds an extra push that this deck needs. Yes, there are times where he’s going to be too much at five mana, but more often than not Leeroy is ending the game on turn eight or nine when the difference between five and four mana doesn’t really matter. The only thing the nerf sets back is that you can no longer Fireball, Leeroy, Frostbolt with ten mana, but that situation should be far and few between.
Miracle (Yes it’s Not Gone)
I’m sorry to say it, the nerf to Leeroy Jenkins will only affect Miracle Rogue in one way, they won’t be able to use Leeroy Jenkins. However, many pros have already shown that there are plenty of viable options for Miracle that aren’t the charging chicken lover. As such, this is a deck you still need to keep in mind. In this matchup aggression is key. By the time they go off with Gadgetzan Auctioneer (which they most likely will) you want to be in a position to ignore it. Even if you don’t get a Undertaker or Mana Wyrm you want to do as much damage as possible. Play your creatures as soon as possible (even a turn one Coin Loot Hoarder) and try to make them trade their dagger into minions. Every time they take a hit to the face you are getting them closer to lethal.
Another point of this deck is to always think about your opponents starting health in terms of their healing. As such, Miracle Rogue always starts at 36 (due to their two Earthen Ring Farseers). This may not always be true, but keeping the Farseers in mind can win games. You never want to burn all of your resources planning to kill them the next turn only to have them heal back into the realm of safety.
This matchup is usually a tight one, and almost always comes down to one turn. Frostbolt and Icelance are both great here, and can be used defensively on either a minion or your opponent’s face to stall damage until you can draw into lethal. Most of their minions aren’t outright threats, but some versions of Miracle have started to run Sludge Belchers (which is something to look out for) and always be aware for Loatheb. Loatheb is one of the cards that can really hurt this deck, and you always want to be aware that he could be played (for this reason I try to use Fireballs against Miracle in the early game when I can).
Midrange Secrets Mage
This matchup has almost always been a free pass. Most of their cards do almost nothing to stop our game plan, with most of their removal either costing four mana (Polymorph, Fireball) or seven (Flamestrike). As a result that most of their action doesn’t really begin until turn four, they usually cave quickly to early pressure. I will almost always kill off opposing Mana Wyrms if I can (as that card can really stall out your plan) but usually ignore everything else. If you curve out well they almost have no chance to keep up. In terms of minions, I will always push through for damage early, including using Arcane Golem or Leeroy Jenkins just to push through. If they have a little extra mana it’s not really important, and since many builds run both Defender of Argus and Molten Giant you just want to hit them with your charge creatures every opportunity you get.
Out of every matchup, Zoo is easily the one I have been asked the most about. Whereas Miracle Rogue is a matchup that comes down to one turn, Zoo is one that usually comes down to two. This is due to the fact that if you ignore their game plan they will usually run you over a turn or two before you can kill them. As such, one of the reasons this is so tricky to play, is that you want to apply as much pressure as possible while also keeping their creatures in check.
Mirror Image is the go to card in this match, and should always be mulliganed aggressively for. Being able to play it on an early turn or to be able to stall them a turn or two is usually very good. While it is never a good idea to keep spells in your opening hand, Frostbolt is almost exclusively removal in this matchup, and can be used to clear out an early Knife Juggler or Voidwalker. Mana Wyrm and Undertaker are also both very strong in this matchup (obviously even better with coin) as both can trade away multiple times in order to help you maintain board control. Board control is very important here and, because of the Warlock’s hero power the longer the game goes the better chance you have of winning.
Besides Mirror Image, Ice Lance is probably the other most interesting card in this matchup. Similar to Frostbolt it is a great defensive card that also can just blast through for lethal. You never want to keep in your opener, but there is a simple rule for using it in this match. That rule is, if you have a combination of Frostbolt/Ice lance, hold onto it as long as possible since it might give you a way to outrace Zoo.
However, if you have a single Frostbolt or Ice Lance it should be used as removal. Frostbolt kills early game minions, while Ice Lance should be used to hit bigger minions during the later stages of the game (such as Doom Guard or Dark Iron Dwarf) to give you one more turn. The general rule of Zoo is, you just want to keep their creatures off the board, be aware of Defender of Argus, and above all else, always, always, try to get them to use their hero power as much as possible, which will give you an edge to win the race.
With Hunter on its way out the door, it would seem that Ramp Druid is set to make a comeback in the metagame. This is probably the main reason I would suggest putting a second Ironbeak Owl into the deck. Due to their high number of taunts, Druid has a lot of ways of locking you out of the ground game. However, even without the second owl, and even with their ability to heal, Druid still is a relatively easy matchup if they don’t have access to early removal. More often than not Druid has no way to interact with something like a turn one Mana Wyrm or Undertaker, which then allows us to snowball damage before they can set up midgame taunts. If they play a turn three Harvest Golem I will almost always ignore it unless I have a very efficient trade.
Something worth noting: Mad Scientist is very strong in this matchup, because both secrets in this deck are great against Druid. Stealing any of their creatures usually amounts to a good amount of extra damage, and Counterspell stopping a Swipe, Wrath or Force of Nature is usually game. Just like with other control decks you have access to do large amounts of damage behind taunts. Mulligan away anything that isn’t a one drop, and try to snowball as fast as possible. Also, you should always play cards ( Leper Gnome and Loot Hoarder) into their hero power since stalling does you no good.
Much like its Druid counterpart, Handlock is set to make an triumphant return when Hunter finally leaves the metagame. This change will have a large effect on many decks, but it is incredibly good news for us. Why? Because, like most aggro decks with a lot of reach, Handlock is one of the easiest matchups on the ladder. I said earlier that you should always think of your opponent’s life total in terms of their healing potential. Well, with Handlock they’re realistically starting at around twenty life, which makes the game a whole lot easier. Yes, they do have Molten Giants and taunts, but you have the ability to push through so much face damage this almost never matters. If you don’t have spells in your hand you do want to try and keep their life total above ten so you can get them really low with something in the realm of double Arcane Golem or Leeroy. Also, if you don’t have that much face damage in hand, it is best to try to trade into a turn four Twilight Drake or Mountain Giant just to keep their taunts options at a minimum.
Sea Giant Shenanigans Shaman
This is a deck that has been popping up on the ladder so much that I thought it was something worth mentioning. I will always keep Frostbolt in my opening hand against all Shaman players. The reason for this is due to the fact that it kills off on half of Feral Spirit, which is the card that gives us the most trouble. Two early taunts are really strong, and while a buffed Undertaker or Mana Wyrm can usually take care of one, the second can be a real problem. You never want to see a Sea Giant or Defender of Argus so it is best to try and trade out totems when you can. Ignore Haunted Creepers (as they are usually too much work to try to clear) and hit face. While Earthshock hits almost all of our early aggression really hard, Shamans have no healing, and so your late game burn spells are always live. This makes planning lethal quite easy since the only thing you have to worry about is taunts (and the occasional Loatheb).
If Druid has little early game removal, then Control Paladin has none. Healing and board wipes are the main way that Paladin stays alive, and we can usually overcome both of those obstacles quite easily. As I have stated, an unchecked opening is the reason this deck is so strong, and Paladin has almost no way to keep any of our turn one plays in check. Mad Scientist is your best option in this matchup as it allows you to battle back against Paladin’s more annoying spells. Not only does he trade away with two 1/1 soldiers, but he usually can draw you a Counterspell to stop a key turn four Consecration.
The main rule when battling a Paladin is to just be aware of their four healing cards. The downside of this matchup is that they have access to two Guardian of Kings, one Holy Light and a single Lay on Hands. However, the upside is that none of these cards have taunt. You want to try to back your opponent into a corner where they either have to play a taunt or heal. If you can do this, you should have direct damage or a charge creature to push the finishing damage through. Just always remember, if they ever get board control, the game becomes very close to unwinnable. As a result, it is almost always right to clear their 1/1 soldiers to keep your Undertaker[card] and [card]Mana Wyrm out of Consecration range.
While I do not think Hunter is gone by any means (something I will talk about after the nerf) it will almost certainly see a huge decline in popularity. As a result, I don’t think this a deck even worth thinking about in the coming week. However, if you do find yourself pitted against a hunter just try to keep their beasts off the field at all costs. They have no healing and are really weak to direct damage (which gets around traps and can even prevent them from using Eaglehorn Bow). There only real taunt card is Houndmaster and if they don’t have access to using him, then the match is usually a breeze.
I, unlike many people who first see this deck, do not think that Control Warrior is unwinnable. Yes, this matchup is definitely not in our favor (as they have a way to deal with a lot of our creatures in very efficient ways) but Mana Wyrm and Undertaker both can give them nightmares if they don’t have an early Fiery War Axe. It is always right to mulligan for both Frostbolt and Ironbeak Owl just to deal with either a turn two Armorsmith or Unstable Ghoul. In addition, never play a turn one Leper Gnome or Coin/Loot Hoarder when you can play something else, as both are too easily killed by Cruel Taskmaster. They might not always have that card, but the swing is very large if they do.
Because of Shield Block, Control Warriors have 40 proverbial starting life, which is always tough to get through. However, if you can deal with Armorsmith the matchup is very winnable as they usually can’t gain more armor than you have damage. They do have access to two Sludge Belchers (which should be owl’d) and besides that only have armor as a way to fight back. Even an early war axe, while annoying, means they are taking hits to the face. This is another matchup where you should always mulligan for Mirror Image as it is the best way to protect all of your early minions.
Northshire cleric is without a doubt the best card against this deck. That may seem like an odd statement, but it could be not more true. Not only does it put a minion on the board that allows Priest to draw more healing cards like Holy Nova and Holy Fire, but it also puts a creature on the board that trades with Leper Gnome, Loot Hoarder and can survive Undertaker (even after a buff). Frostbolt and Mirror Images are almost must haves in this matchup due to the fact that they can offset a strong Undertaker/Zombie Chow opening or the like. Mad Scientist shines here more so than in any other matchup. They have plenty of creatures you want to steal and, unlike Warrior, Priest’s healing spells costs a lot of mana, and usually take the entire turn. This makes Mad Scientist one of the best ways to win this battle. Shutting down a Holy Fire or Holy Nova can be huge and give you enough board presence to end the game.
This deck is by far the hardest deck to play against, and most games if they get rolling it’s almost impossible to come back. They have access to huge amounts of healing, along with a ton of early game that matches ours. However, if they slip up early it is very hard for them to get back into the game due to their lack of cheap removal. Also, Holy Nova is one of their best weapons against us, but does not kill either Mana Wyrm or Undertaker. As a result, I will always try to keep those one drop’s health at three as much as possible to avoid getting blown out.
The meta is every changing, and while I did build this deck as a way to answer Hunter, I think it still has a very good place in the meta. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different, or to any aggro lover. The addition of the owl is very strong, and gives a good way to push through taunts. One question I get asked a lot if about the replacement of Mirror Entity for Ice Block. While I myself do not run this version, I think this is a fine addition that could be very useful in aggro mirrors. As always, thanks for reading and I will see you next time to talk about the state of Hunter in the coming days. Til then, may you always start with one drops and finish in a flurry of spells.