Guide: Watcher Mage Deck
Featuring a Midrange Mage guide from Shane, a deck that he piloted to Legend. Read on for more!
In following the theme of budget decks which we've been seeing a lot of lately, I'd like to share one of my main decks at the moment - The Mid Game Mage. Currently the class really isn't receiving a lot of attention since the Freeze Mage nerf knocked Mage down to the bottom of the classes a few months ago. Despite the short revival of the class with Trump's budget Control, I still feel the class is under-represented.
The main problem is that a lot of the current mage decks don't work in the current meta. Control decks, such as Trump's, are easily rushed down by aggro/beat down such as Reynad's Zoo and Aggro Hunter as well as not being able to scale into the late game as well as Control Warrior or Handlock. I don't even have to mention Aggro Mage, which in my opinion is simply unplayable and I've yet to see a solid deck which competes with decks at Ranks 5 and above.
Mage being one of my favourite classes, I really wanted a way to make it work. This specific deck (right) came about after a few games with Watcher Druid and taking aspects from that deck and placing them into the Mage class. Thus the Watcher Mage was born. This deck has an extremely solid mid game, with some exceptional cards like , Chillwind Yetis and Defender of Argus(Argi?). Additionally it has enough early game potential to carry it into the mid game with cards such as Ancient Watcher/Sunfury Protector, Arcane Missiles/Arcane Explosionand Harvest Golem.
The deck is fairly simple in terms of decisions making. The only thing to be wary of is to be very careful with usage of Fireball/Polymorph/Flamestrike. Most classes will attempt to bait these out in order to play late game threats safely so avoid falling into this trap.
At first, Arcane Explosionis probably the most unusual card included in this deck. Generally regarded as a weak card by most, I actually think it is severely underrated. Explosion works exceptionally against Hunter and really helps in securing board control against Zoo and other aggro decks especially when combined with Bloodmage Thalnosfor a Mage's .
The Earthen Ring Farseer, while not exactly an odd choice, is definitely necessary in the deck. A solid 3/3 for 3, with the added bonus of a heal, is exceptional. It strengthens your early game with the heal and also allows for more value out of a buffed or Water Elemental. Farseer can also keep your hero alive long enough to get Taunt out and regain board control in a bad situation.
The Spellbreakeris included because of versatility. Silence is a mechanic which you will always be able to find a use for, especially in this deck. Against most decks, two Polymorphs should be enough removal in order to carry through the midgame but if not Spellbreaker can deal with a pesky Cairne Bloodhoofor similar threat. Additionally, it acts as another activator for Ancient Watcherto give you a two mana Yeti.
The rest of the deck is fairly self explanatory, and follows the overall theme of board control with the ability to continuously dish out solid damage if the enemy can't recover the board.
Against most classes, your mulligans will be incredibly similar. Generally you want to hold onto one solid mid game threat (i.e. Yeti, Water Elemental) as well as any early game cards such as Arcane Missiles, Frostboltor Mana Wyrm. Additionally if I have one part of the Watcher combo (Watcher or Sunfury) I will generally try to mulligan more aggressively to find another part as the chances are you will get an activator of some description, however this is simply a matter of personal preference and if you have a solid hand it's certainly not recommended.
The only classes you mulligan differently for are Hunter/Warlock. When facing these, always hold onto Arcane Explosion/Missiles and hold onto taunt. Unfortunately due to the nature of this deck Handlock is a bad matchup so it's best to try and make your hand better against aggro in order to play to the deck's strengths.
Due to this being a mid game deck, you'll generally find that it will fare well against aggro and other mid game decks but fall short when facing heavy control. However, for simplicity I will go through matchups class by class.
In my experience this is a generally favourable matchup. You don't want to commit more than 2-3 minions to the board at a time, and try and maintain taunts on the field. Remember to mulligan aggressively for Arcane Explosion/Missiles as well as early taunts such as Watcher/Sunfury or Argus and maintain board control.
Against aggro Warlock (Primarily Zoo) your matchup is fairly good. Similar to the Hunter matchup, mulligan aggressively for Arcane Explosion/Missiles and early taunts. However, you don't have the downside of having to watch how many minions you have on board. As long as you are able to trade semi-favourably and can maintain taunt on the field you should have a fairly easy time.
Handlock is a completely different story. This is not a fun matchup. Your Fireballs and Polymorphs will always be used to kill Giants. As a mid game Mage, you don't have enough burst to bring the Warlock down quickly. My best advice for this matchup is to bring him to about 13-14 and then threaten with lethal on the board where possible. This allows him to make his attempt at a Molten Giant/Argus which you can counter with Poly/Spellbreaker and finish him off.
However, more often than not he will be able to Shadowflamean Ancient Watcher or a similar board clear play which will make your attempts worthless. I don't have much advice for this matchup; do your best to threaten his life total early, save your Fireballs/Polymorphs for Giants and pray it sticks.
You are generally favoured in this matchup. Generally your midgame should be better than the Shamans as long as you can maintain board which shouldn't be too difficult. Shaman can't compete with you on value as long as you clear totems (especially Flametongue Totem, Mana Tide Totemand spell damage) and be wary of Lightning Storm. Save Poly for strong legendaries such as Cairne Bloodhoofor .
The mirror match, as one might expect, is a fairly even split. Against late game control you generally have enough power to compete and you slaughter mage aggro. Against late and mid game mage, play around Flamestrikeas this is the big game swinger. Save your Polymorphs for anything Boulderfist Ogreor above.
Obviously you won't be seeing much of this on the ladder, but I'll give some advice against it anyway. 4 attack cards are your friend. Never Argus minions such as the Yeti or Watcher and definitely Argus Water Elementals. This matchup is pretty good, and you shouldn't have too much difficulty with a pretty decisive victory.
The only Warrior deck being seen right now is Control Warrior. This is a very tough matchup for you. Similar to Handlock, they have many answers to your mid game creature such as Yeti and Water Elemental and you will generally find it difficult to control the board.
Your plays can't exactly change as it's difficult to play around their intense late game. However, in general you will want to kill Frothing Berserkers and Armorsmiths ASAP because these are the Warrior's main forms of early pressure and sustain. Be careful not to leave him low expecting a kill on the next turn because it is more than likely he will Alexstraszato stay in it.
Fairly simple matchup. Watcher/Sunfury absolutely destroys rogue, denying them their dagger hero power usage or forcing out a Backstab+ comboed Eviscerate. Water Elemental is also extremely good in this matchup so try and keep it alive as long as possible. Most rogue decks will lose steam at around turn 7 if they don't run sprint so hold out until this point and secure the win there with a strong board.
Most of the Druid being played now is Watcher Druid, although there is a certain amount of dedicated control Druid when reaching Ranks 3+. This is a moderately even matchup, however Druid tends to have the advantage. Thanks to cards like Innervatethey are able to accelerate their early game a lot better than you can and an early Yeti can be very problematic if you have no Fireball in hand.
My best advice for this matchup is to focus on board control over damage. Additionally, as tempting as it may be try to avoid using Poly on an Ancient of Lore. A lot of the value of the card is in the card draw and the Druid considers it good value if you have to Poly it.
Seen as little as Priest right now, you shouldn't run into this matchup very often. This matchup is very even. Paladins strong turn 4 plays are less strong against you. Truesilver Championwill generally have to run into a 4/5 making for some odd trades.
Additionally, is not strong enough to swing board control into the Paladin's favour. Remember to control the board whilst also not committing too much to avoid Equalitycombos and don't focus on bursting down as Paladin has many ways to heal through burst.
Your primary weakness is going too late against control. At this point, most of your premium removal will be used but the opponent will still have threats to play. Also, a strong control deck should be able to control your board well which causes problems for you as this is your main win condition. The best way to counter this is to remember that in this kind of matchup you have to play the aggressor. Constantly be the one applying the pressure and forcing the opponent to react, otherwise a control deck with an advantage is very tough to come back against.
This deck costs 1250 dust, excluding Bloodmage Thalnos, with most of the required rares/commons being cards which newer players should be crafting anyways. The only card that I would really consider replacing on a budget is Thalnos.
Bloodmage Thalnos is an exceptionally unique card which is why he's hard to find a replacement for. The spell damage is good, but not the sole reason he's in the deck as he also has the ability to cycle himself with the deathrattle draw. For this reason I don't recommend replacing him with a Kobold Geomancerbut instead to strengthen up your mid game further. Adding another Earthen Ring Farseer would really help the deck, as well as another Arcane Missiles or even a Flamestrike if you are running into a lot of late game decks.
Good Luck with this deck! I find it to be extremely good, having given me a ten game win streak during the time of my play testing before writing this article (Rank 3-4). Most importantly, have fun on your way to Legend!
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