Now that Patron has been hit with the Warsong Commander nerf, Freeze Mage (one of my all time favorite decks) has a chance to return to the ladder. However, while that is good and well, I do not simply cover the traditional decks on Weekly Legends. Rather, I always try to teach something about the game by showing odd or interesting deck choices. This week is going to be a lesson is one of adaptation. Instead of looking at the usual Freeze Mage fare, we are going to look at a list that sevensongs took to Legend. Instead of the usual finisher, this deck opts to get rid of [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card] and some other traditional freeze options to adapt to the current meta.
This list relies on [card]Malygos[/card] to end games. While the legendary dragon has been used in fringe lists, this is the first time where he is by himself. However, he gives you a lot of finishing power and, because people don’t expect him, also gives you a huge amount of surprise. People will often expect fifteen or so damage following an [card]Alexstrasza[/card], but with Malygos and [card]Emperor Thaurissan[/card] you can get people from high up in the twenties. That surprise is what instantly drew me to the list because it will allow you to win a lot of games you normally would lose.
In addition, this deck also runs a couple of key tweaks that make it perfectly adapted to today’s meta. Those tweaks, along with the new finisher, really make this stand out among Freeze Mage lists and show why this deck is a great choice for ladder.
[cardinsert card=”loot-hoarder” float=”left”]
My, oh my, how times have changed. Once upon a time cutting [card]Acolyte of Pain[/card] in Freeze Mage would have been an insane thought. However, Paladin is now the king of the ladder and Hunter has returned with a furious vengeance. That means you want some early power on the board but also a way to keep cycling through your deck. Cue [card]Loot Hoarder[/card], one of the best early game options Freeze Mage has. While you are only going to get one draw off of the little gnome, its two attack more than makes up for it. This card also comes down on turn two as opposed to turn three, which makes a large difference as well. The two attack is also relevant because some games you aren’t going to have [card]Alexstrasza[/card], and getting in early chip damage can be important for setting up lethal later on in the game.
Turn two is perhaps one of the most important turns in Hearthstone. Paladin, Hunter and Druid all live on getting their curve rolling, and while Freeze Mage has a ton of catch up options, having a turn two play that can contest [card]Knife Juggler[/card], [card]Mad Scientist[/card] and the second half of a [card]Shielded Minibot[/card] is very important. Your own scientists to this well, but having four cards in your deck that have that turn two capability instead of two is a huge difference. This gives you added consistency to start games out with something on board that also furthers your end game plan. Think of this card a lot like [card]Armorsmith[/card] in that way.
[cardinsert card=”doomsayer” float=”right”]
[card]Doomsayer[/card] is pretty stock as far as cards that need to be in Freeze Mage lists. Nothing too exciting about it, since you absolutely need to run two if you want to survive in this day and age. I don’t bring this up to reiterate its power level as a board clear or to discuss how strong it can be combined with [card]Frost Nova[/card] or [card]Blizzard[/card]. Rather, it is important to understand just what Doomsayer does and how to use it. A lot of the times people will hold this card back or try and get the most value out of it as possible. You never want to fall into traps where you absolutely need to get the most value out of a card, and Doomsayer is a good example of why.
Never be afraid to play this card on turn two or onto an empty board. I am going to say that again, never be afraid to play [card]Doomsayer[/card] on turn two or onto an empty board. Now, that does not mean that is the way you primarily want to play the two drop (it should almost always be combined with freeze in some way) but you should recognize when it can be used for tempo. Clearing something as simple as an [card]Armorsmith[/card] or turn two [card]Knife Juggler[/card] can be huge in stopping armor gain or taking off early pressure. This can then allow you to play a little more relaxed on the following turns. In the same vein if you are setting up lethal in a few turns, you can drop Doomsayer onto an empty board. This prevents your opponent from playing anything down, or it makes them use mana to silence it, which detracts from the minions they can play. Both of these are acceptable uses for the card, and you should never shy away from them is they make sense.
[cardinsert card=”frost-nova” float=”left”]
[card]Antique Healbot[/card] was first run in some Freeze Mage lists when GVG dropped, but largely phased out since. However, with all of the aggressive decks now on ladder, ranging from Paladin to Hunter to Zoo, having eight extra points of healing is really important. This is a great tech card that can really enable you to climb back into games where you start to fall too low or run out of freeze. It can also buy you more time, which is the most important aspect of a Freeze Mage deck. You are basically stalling as much as you can until you can kill your opponent in one turn. That comes easily against some decks and is hard against others. This card is a great tool at your disposal because it can be used against many different decks in many different situations.
This card heals you, which is really important in case someone pops an [card]Ice Block[/card], but you actually want to use it so your opponent can’t pop your [card]Ice Block[/card]. Almost every match you play is going to come down to a turn where your opponent has to pop your block or lose. If you can get a healbot down the turn before to cut those plays off you will almost always be able to win the game. One extra turn is important for a lot of decks, but for Freeze Mage it is absolutely essential. You want to always save [card]Antique Healbot[/card] for situations where you think your block is going to be popped the following turn. This can be hard to read at times, but if you keep track of your opponent’s potential damage (which you always should when playing a Freeze Mage list) then you should be able to guess with decent accuracy.
[cardinsert card=”malygos” float=”right”]
The king himself. [card]Malygos[/card] is one of the most powerful (not to mention coolest) cards to ever grace Hearthstone. As mentioned earlier, he is in this deck as a form of surprise more than anything else. However, that surprise is worth more than a certain Archmage could ever be. Hearthstone is a game that is constantly being dissected. Decklists are everywhere, streamers are constantly tweaking lists and people are always reading about the game. Even my own series is a breakdown of different decks and different styles. People can be prepared, they can be ready and they can plan for just about anything. However, they cannot plan for surprises.
Using a finisher like [card]Malygos[/card] helps because your opponent will often hang around the low twenties or so because they have not seen [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card] yet. Making your opponent feel safe when they are dead is one of the best advantages you can have in the game, and the dragon does that better than any other card. One last note about [card]Malygos[/card] is that he is very, very hard for most decks to kill. This is important because sometimes you can afford to drop him down onto an empty or near empty board and dare your opponent to have a miracle. Of course he is going to be an insta-kill ninety-nine percent of the time, but if your opponent is out of cards or if they have nothing on the board putting down the 4/12 for a next turn lethal can be the right move.
[cardinsert card=”pyroblast” float=”left”]
This card has been steadily disappearing from Freeze Mage lists over the past year. While it was once seen as a must-have finisher, [card]Archmage Antonias[/card] and [card]Emperor Thaurissan[/card]’s combo potential phased [card]Pyroblast[/card] out of most builds. However, this deck does not have the Archmage, which means some extra reach is needed from time to time. Ten damage is a good chunk of health, and this card is your ace in the hole for either putting down the last punch or to set up the following lethal. A good way to use this card is when your opponent is at a very high life total. You can play [card]Malygos[/card] and a couple of spells to wear them down to ten or lower life. This will cause them to spend their turn dealing with the dragon, which opens up the finishing Pyroblast. This may not be the most exciting card, but as this deck cannot make infinite [card]Fireball[/card]s, it just gives you another out to bad draws. It also provides an extra hit against Control Warrior, which is never bad.
[cardinsert card=”tirion-fordring” float=”right”]
Hahahaha. Ok, I’m done seriou-hahahah. Freeze Mage absolutely crushes Paladin, and this version is no different. While Secret has a great matchup against most popular decks, they cannot do anything about constant freeze. That, mixed with the fact that they run no healing, means the game almost comes down to solitaire. The rules of this one are very simple. Stick to your curve at all costs and try to get the most out of your AOE. While individual removal is fine during the early turns, you also are eventually going need it to ice (get it?) the later turns. If you can, try and freeze a board, which will give you a two for one with your later board clears.
The only thing you really need to watch out for is super aggressive secret decks. [card]Divine Favor[/card] can lead to problems. However, you can’t really play around the card all that well since you do need to draw in order to win. The most important thing to remember in this situation is, if you are going against a [card]Secretkeeper[/card] type deck, then try to limit your drawing as best as you can. One of Freeze Mage’s biggest weaknesses is early burst damage. While midrange or slower Paladin’s do not have access to that, the hyper-aggro secret decks do. You should always be careful not to take too much damage before the middle turns of the game. If you sense you are facing an aggressive style of secret, or if you trigger an early [card]Avenge[/card], do not hesitate to use your removal. Though, try to save your [card]Fireball[/card]s for [card]Mysterious Challenger[/card] if you can.
[cardinsert card=”druid-of-the-claw” float=”left”]
Gulp…As confident as you should be for Paladin, you need to be very nervous when facing off against Malfurion. Most of Druid’s minions can’t do all that much to you. However, they have access to the [card]Force of Nature[/card]/[card]Savage Roar[/card] combo as well as [card]Loatheb[/card]. Those cards spell a lot of trouble. The combo can be absolutely disastrous. Not only does it force you to make plays that you would rather hold off on, but it also can pop [card]Ice Block[/card] from just about any health level. Druid’s hero power also means they will always have access to one damage. You always need to be ready for the turn after they break the block with the combo, and you want to play around it as much as you can. This can be done in two different ways, both are not favorable, but they will help you survive this match.
The first way to stop the combo (which is the only real way Druid is going to be able to kill you) is through keeping their board clear and staying above fourteen health. This can lead to some very tricky situations because you do not have [card]Archmage Antonidas[/card]. That means every [card]Fireball[/card] and [card]Frostbolt[/card] you use on the board is damage you will not have to end the game. Even so, this is a game where you only need one burn spell to win. The other way to fight the combo is to constantly anticipate it by using your secrets and healing as best as you can. You never know when your opponent may suddenly drop a [card]Savage Roar[/card], but you should be constantly thinking about the possibility. If you can use [card]Antique Healbot[/card] or a [card]Frost Nova[/card] at the right time, it could buy you that all-important extra turn.
[cardinsert card=”shield-block” float=”right”]
Ah yes, the big armory elephant in the room. The switch to [card]Malygos[/card] has made this matchup winnable. I’m not saying it’s easy (still basically impossible) but it is winnable instead of an auto loss. The only way you are going to win this is through hoarding cards. In many matchups you want to use your removal throughout the game to control the board and keep pressure off of you. However, here you simply cannot afford to. While you do want to try to avoid getting bursted down, your stalling should only be done through AOE. Individual spot removal needs to be saved if you even want a chance. The way you are going to win this (slim though it is) is through getting all of your burn spells discounted with [card]Emperor Thaurissan[/card] and then hitting them with [card]Malygos[/card] backed up with every spell you have. That is the only way you can break through their armor, but even then it may not be enough. You need to take your time, and get ready for the moment to strike. The only other note of importance is you have to get ride of [card]Armorsmith[/card] in an efficient way. The two drop can just stack up armor against AOE, which is something that cannot happen. For this reason, never be afraid to [card]Doomsayer[/card] her on turn two.
[cardinsert card=”flamecannon” float=”left”]
This is another popular matchup that is a piece of cake. Tempo Mage does one thing (control the board) and it does it really, really well. However, all of their early combos and flurry of spells just fall completely flat against a deck like this one. Their gameplan is built around early pressure turning into larger minions, which eventually turns into lethal. The only thing is, a lot of that damage needs to come from their minions, which works really, really well for you. Tempo Mage is a deck that relies on early board damage combined with burn to finish off their opponents, but they only have access to two [card]Fireball[/card]s and two [card]Frostbolt[/card]s. Know this, and simply keep their board locked down to stay out of lethal range. There is no way they are going to be able to handle you throughout the long run, especially because almost all of their minions get crushed by AOE due to a lack of deathrattle. Once you get an [card]Ice Block[/card] set up past turn seven there is almost no way they can come back.
[cardinsert card=”hunters-mark” float=”right”]
Public enemy number two (behind Secret Paladin) is your public enemy number one. Both iterations of Hunter (Face and Midrange) give you problems, but they do so for completely different reasons. Face is very tricky because they can start attacking you right off that bat and bring the early pressure that Freeze Mage does not like. This can wear you down in a lot of games and kill you before you can get any of your protection spells up and ready. You need to spend all of your removal spells clearing the board and trying your best to keep your life total up high behind an [card]Ice Block[/card]. [card]Alexstrasza[/card] is your primary win condition here. Not for her usualy play, but because she can heal you back up to fifteen. That health gain is almost always going to put you out of range. The plan here is to wait the game out until they run out of cards, which then will allow you to burst them down.
In contrast to face, Midrange Hunter has large amounts of finishing damage while also packing some of the stickiest minions in the game. That combination can be an absolute nightmare for you if you aren’t careful. This game starts out the same way as face. Use your removal and early minions to try and keep their pressure away from you. However, the middle of the game gets very tricky because they start throwing down things like [card]Savannah Highmane[/card], [card]Piloted Shredder[/card] and [card]Dr. Boom[/card]. Most of those cards are going to be very hard to clear. As such, you want to win this match by stalling as much as you can with AOE freeze instead of removal. Of course, if you can clear your should, but that is not the way this is going to go most of the time. Save your [card]Frost Nova[/card]s and [card]Blizzard[/card]s for their larger threats, as that will let you get to turn nine or ten with an [card]Ice Block[/card] still intact.
Mulliganing with Freeze Mage is very simple, and this deck is no exception. In fact, this may be the simplest mulligan guide I have ever done. As you are a pure combo deck, you really do not care about what your opponent does. You are just looking for your two drops and card draw. Everything else should be sent back. There are no fringe plays here, and no real “other” scenarios, since if you start with a slow hand or don’t have the proper engine you will lose. [card]Mad Scientist[/card], [card]Acolyte of Pain[/card], [card]Arcane Intellect[/card] and [card]Loot Hoarder[/card] are the way you want to open every game. Look for those cards exclusively. There are only two exception to that rule. The first is [card]Frostbolt[/card], which should be kept against aggressive decks (Paladin, Hunter) or decks that have a problematic two drops like Druid. The other exception comes with [card]Doomsayer[/card]. You want to keep the board-clearing epic against Warrior (for [card]Armorsmith[/card]) or against aggressive decks if you have no other early removal.
The winter winds are beginning to blow, and with it they bring an icy storm. Freeze Mage is one of the coolest decks to ever come out of Hearthstone, and it’s always cool when you get to go back and see how people are tweaking the classics. That’s all for this week, but before I go, be sure to check out my new series “The Brewmaster”. It is all about the brew and striving for the innovation that I always try to bring to this series. Thanks for tuning in and, until next time, may you always set up for the two turn kill.